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Essays from ' The Guardian '' 



Essays 

from 

'The Guardian' 



BY 

WALTER PATER 

FELLOW OF BRASENOSE COLLEGE 



LONDON 
MACMILLAN AND CO., Limited 

NEW YORK : THE MACMILLAN COMPANY 
I 90 I 

All righti reiewed 






NOTE 

The nine papers contained in the following 
volume originally appeared anonymously in 
T/ie Guardian newspaper. 



CONTENTS 



1. ENGLISH LITERATURE 

2. AMIEL'S "JOURNAL INTIME " 

3. BROWNING 

4. "ROBERT ELSMERE" 

5. THEIR MAJESTIES' SERVANTS 

6. WORDSWORTH 

7. MR. GOSSE'S POEMS . 

8. FERDINAND FABRE . 

9. THE "CONTES" OF M. AUGUSTIN FILON 



17 
39 
53 
71 
89 

H9 

135 



I 

ENGLISH LITERATURE 

17TH February 1886 



ENGLISH LITERATURE 

Four Books for Students of 
English Literature 

The making of an anthology of English prose 
is what must have occurred to many of its 
students, by way of pleasure to themselves, or 
of profit to other persons. Such an anthology, 
the compass and variety of our prose literature 
being considered, might well follow exclusively 
some special line of interest in it ; exhibiting, 
for instance, what is so obviously striking, its 
imaginative power, or its (legitimately) poetic 
beauty, or again, its philosophical capacity. 
Mr. Saintsbury's well - considered Specimens of 
E72glish Prose Style, from Malory to Macaulay 
(Kegan Paul), a volume, as we think, which 
bears fresh witness to the truth of the old 
remark that it takes a scholar indeed to make a 

3 



'THE GUARDIAN' ESSAYS 

good literary selection, has its motive sufficiently- 
indicated in the very original " introductory 
essay," which might v^ell stand, along with the 
best of these extracts from a hundred or more 
deceased masters of English, as itself a document 
or standard, in the matter of prose style. The 
essential difference between poetry and prose — 
" that other beauty of prose " — in the words of 
the motto he has chosen from Dryden, the first 
master of the sort of prose he prefers : — that is 
Mr. Saintsbury's burden. It is a consideration, 
undoubtedly, of great importance both for the 
writer and the critic ; in England especially, 
where, although (as Mr. Saintsbury rightly 
points out, in correction of an imperfectly in- 
formed French critic of our literature) the 
radical distinction between poetry and prose has 
ever been recognized by its students, yet the 
imaginative impulse, which is perhaps the 
richest of our purely intellectual gifts, has been 
apt to invade the province of that tact and good 
judgment, alike as to matter and manner, in 
which we are not richer than other people. 
Great poetry and great prose, it might be found, 
have most of their qualities in common. But 

4 



ENGLISH LITERATURE 

their indispensable qualities are different, or even 
opposed ; and it is just the indispensable qualities 
of prose and poetry respectively, which it is so 
necessary for those v^^ho have to do with either 
to bear ever in mind. Order, precision, direct- 
ness, are the radical merits of prose thought ; 
and it is more than merely legitimate that they 
should form the criterion of prose style, because 
within the scope of those qualities, according to 
Mr. Saintsbury, there is more than just the quiet, 
unpretending usefulness of the bare sermo pedestris. 
Acting on language, those qualities generate a 
specific and unique beauty — " that other beauty 
of prose " — fitly illustrated by these specimens, 
which the reader needs hardly be told, after 
what has been now said, are far from being a 
collection of " purple patches." 

Whether or not he admits their practical 
cogency, an attentive reader will not fail to be 
interested in the attempt Mr. Saintsbury has 
made to give technical rules of metre for the 
production of the true prose rhythm. Any one 
who cares to do so might test the validity of 
those rules in the nearest possible way, by apply- 
ing them to the varied examples in this wide 

5 



'THE GUARDIAN' ESSAYS 

survey of what has been actually well done in 
English prose, here exhibited on the side of 
their strictly prosaic merit — their conformity, 
before all other aims, to laws of a structure 
primarily reasonable. Not that that reasonable 
prose structure, or architecture, as Mr. Saintsbury 
conceives it, has been always, or even generally, 
the ideal, even of those chosen writers here in 
evidence. Elizabethan prose, all too chaotic in 
the beauty and force which overflowed into it 
from Elizabethan poetry, and incorrect with an 
incorrectness which leaves it scarcely legitimate 
prose at all : then, in reaction against that, the 
correctness of Dryden, and his followers through 
the eighteenth century, determining the standard 
of a prose in the proper sense, not inferior to the 
prose of the Augustan age in Latin, or of the 
" great age in France " : and, again in reaction 
against this, the wild mixture of poetry and 
prose, in our wild nineteenth century, under the 
influence of such writers as Dickens and Carlyle : 
— such are the three periods into which the 
story of our prose literature divides itself. And 
Mr. Saintsbury has his well-timed, practical 
suggestions, upon a survey of them. 

6 



ENGLISH LITERATURE 

If the invasion of the legitimate sphere of 
prose in England by the spirit of poetry, weaker 
or stronger, has been something far deeper than 
is indicated by that tendency to write unconscious 
blank verse, which has made it feasible to tran- 
scribe about one-half of Dickens's otherwise so 
admirable Barnaby Rudge in blank-verse lines, a 
tendency (outdoing our old friend M. Jourdain) 
commoner than Mr. Saintsbury admits, such 
lines being frequent in his favourite Dryden ; 
yet, on the other hand, it might be maintained, 
and would be maintained by its French critics, 
that our English poetry has been too apt to dis- 
pense with those prose qualities, which, though 
not the indispensable qualities of poetry, go, 
nevertheless, to the making of all first-rate 
poetry — the qualities, namely, of orderly struc- 
ture, and such qualities generally as depend upon 
second thoughts. A collection of specimens of 
English poetry, for the purpose of exhibiting the 
achievement of prose excellences by it (in their 
legitimate measure) is a desideratum we commend 
to Mr. Saintsbury. It is the assertion, the 
development, the product of those very different 
indispensable qualities of poetry, in the presence 

7 



'THE GUARDIAN' ESSAYS 

of which the EngHsh is equal or superior to all 
other modern literature — the native, sublime, 
and beautiful, but often wild and irregular, 
imaginative power in English poetry from 
Chaucer to Shakespeare, with which Professor 
Minto deals, in his Characteristics of English 
Poets (Blackwood), lately reprinted. That his 
book should have found many readers we can 
well understand, in the light of the excellent 
qualities which, in high degree, have gone to 
the making of it : a tasteful learning, never 
deserted by that hold upon contemporary litera- 
ture which is so animating an influence in the 
study of what belongs to the past. Beginning 
with an elaborate notice of Chaucer, full of 
the minute scholarship of our day, he never 
forgets that his subject is, after all, poetry. The 
followers of Chaucer, and the precursors of 
Shakespeare, are alike real persons to him — old 
Langland reminding him of Carlyle's " Gospel of 
Labour." The product of a large store of reading 
has been here secreted anew for the reader who 
desires to see, in bird's-eye view, the light and 
shade of a long and varied period of poetic 
literature, by way of preparation for Shakespeare, 

8 



ENGLISH LITERATURE 

(with a full essay upon whom the volume closes,) 
explaining Shakespeare, so far as he can be 
explained by literary antecedents. 

That powerful poetry was twin-brother to a 
prose, of more varied, but certainly of wilder 
and more irregular power than the admirable, 
the typical, prose of Dryden. In Dryden, and 
his followers through the eighteenth century, 
we see the reaction against the exuberance and 
irregularity of that prose, no longer justified by 
power, but cognizable rather as bad taste. But 
such reaction was effective only because an age 
had come — the age of a negative, or agnostic 
philosophy — in which men's minds must needs 
be limited to the superficialities of things, with 
a kind of narrowness amounting to a positive gift. 
What that mental attitude was capable of, in 
the way of an elegant, yet plain-spoken, and life- 
like delineation of men's moods and manners, as 
also in the way of determining those moods 
and manners themselves to all that was lively, 
unaffected, and harmonious, can be seen no- 
where better than in Mr. Austin Dobson's Selections 
from Steele (Clarendon Press) prefaced by his 
careful " Life." The well-known qualities of 

9 



'THE GUARDIAN' ESSAYS 

Mr. Dobson's own original work are a sufficient 
guarantee of the taste and discrimination we may 
look for in a collection like this, in which the 
random lightnings of the first of the essayists 
are grouped under certain heads — "Character 
Sketches," "Tales and Incidents," " Manners and 
Fashions," and the like — so as to diminish, for 
the general reader, the scattered effect of short 
essays on a hundred various subjects, and give a 
connected, book-like character to the specimens. 

Steele, for one, had certainly succeeded in 
putting himself, and his way of taking the world 
— for this pioneer of an everybody's literature 
had his subjectivities — into books. What a 
survival of one long -past day, for instance, in 
" A Ramble from Richmond to London " ! 
What truth to the surface of common things, to 
their direct claim on our interest ! yet with what 
originality of effect in that truthfulness, when he 
writes, for instance : 

" I went to my lodgings, led by a light, 
whom I put into the discourse of his private 
economy, and made him give me an account of 
the charge, hazard, profit, and loss of a family 
that depended upon a link." 

lo - 



ENGLISH LITERATURE 

It was one of his peculiarities, he tells us, to 
live by the eye far more than by any other sense 
(a peculiarity, perhaps, in an Englishman), and 
this is what he sees at the early daily service 
then common in some City churches. Among 
those who were come only to see or be seen, 
" there were indeed a few in whose looks there 
appeared a heavenly joy and gladness upon the 
entrance of a new day, as if they had gone to 
sleep with expectation of it." 

The industrious reader, indeed, might select 
out of these specimens from Steele, a picture, 
in minute detail, of the characteristic manners 
of that time. Still, beside, or only a little way 
beneath, such a picture of passing fashion, what 
Steele and his fellows really deal with is the 
least transitory aspects of life, though still 
merely aspects — those points in which all 
human nature, great or little, finds what it has 
in common, and directly shows itself up. The 
natural strength of such literature will, of course, 
be in the line of its tendencies ; in transparency, 
variety, and directness. To the unembarrassing 
matter, the unembarrassed style ! Steele is, 
perhaps, the most impulsive writer of the school 

1 1 



'THE GUARDIAN' ESSAYS 

to which he belongs ; he abounds in felicities of 
impulse. Yet who can help feeling that his 
style is regular because the matter he deals with 
is the somewhat uncontentious, even, limited 
soul, of an age not imaginative, and unambitious 
in its speculative flight ? Even in Steele him- 
self we may observe with what sureness of 
instinct the men of that age turned aside at the 
contact of anything likely to make them, in any 
sense, forget themselves. 

No one indicates better than Charles Lamb, 
to whose memory Mr. Alfred Ainger has done 
such good service, the great and peculiar change 
which was begun at the end of the last century, 
and dominates our own ; that sudden increase of 
the width, the depth, the complexity of intel- 
lectual interest, which has many times torn and 
distorted literary style, even with those best 
able to comprehend its laws. In Mrs. Leicester s 
School^ with other Writings in Prose and Verse 
(Macmillan), Mr. Ainger has collected and anno- 
tated certain remains of Charles and Mary Lamb, 
too good to lie unknown to the present gener- 
ation, in forgotten periodicals or inaccessible 
reprints. The story of the Odyssey, abbreviated 

12 



ENGLISH LITERATURE 

in very simple prose, for children — of all ages — 
will speak for itself. But the garland of grace- 
ful stories which gives name to the volume, 
told by a party of girls on the evening of their 
assembling at school, are in the highest degree 
characteristic of the brother and sister who were 
ever so successful in imparting to others their 
own enjoyment of books and people. The 
tragic circumstance which strengthened and 
consecrated their natural community of interest 
had, one might think, something to do with 
the far-reaching pensiveness even of their most 
humorous writing, touching often the deepest 
springs of pity and awe, as the way of the 
highest humour is — a way, however, very 
different from that of the humorists of the 
eighteenth century. But one cannot forget also 
that Lamb was early an enthusiastic admirer of 
Wordsworth : of Wordsworth, the first character- 
istic power of the nineteenth century, his essay 
on whom, in the Quarterly Review^ Mr. Ainger 
here reprints. Would that he could have 
reprinted it as originally composed, and un- 
garbled by Gifford, the editor ! Lamb, like 
Wordsworth, still kept the charm of a serenity, 

13 



'THE GUARDIAN' ESSAYS 

a precision, unsurpassed by the quietest essayist 
of the preceding age. But it might have been 
foreseen that the rising tide of thought and 
feeling, on the strength of which they too 
are borne upward, would sometimes overflow 
barriers. And so it happens that these simple 
stories are touched, much as Wordsworth's verse- 
stories were, with tragic power. Dealing with 
the beginnings of imagination in the minds of 
children, they record, with the reality which a 
very delicate touch preserves from anything 
lugubrious, not those merely preventible miseries 
of childhood over which some writers have 
been apt to gloat, but the contact of childhood 
with the great and inevitable sorrows of life, 
into which children can enter with depth, with 
dignity, and sometimes with a kind of simple, 
pathetic greatness, to the discipline of the heart. 
Let the reader begin with the " Sea Voyage," 
which is by Charles Lamb ; and, what Mr. 
Ainger especially recommends, the " Father's 
Wedding-Day," by his sister Mary. 

The ever- increasing intellectual burden of 
our age is hardly likely to adapt itself to the 
exquisite, but perhaps too delicate and limited, 

14 



ENGLISH LITERATURE 

literary instruments of the age of Queen Anne. 
Yet Mr. Saintsbury is certainly right in thinking 
that, as regards style, English literature has 
much to do. Well, the good quality of an age, 
the defect of which lies in the direction of 
intellectual anarchy and confusion, may well be 
eclecticism : in style, as in other things, it is 
well always to aim at the combination of as 
many excellences as possible — opposite excel- 
lences, it may be — those other beauties of prose. 
A busy age will hardly educate its writers in 
correctness. Let its writers make time to write 
English more as a learned language ; and com- 
pleting that correction of style which had only 
gone a certain way in the last century, raise the 
general level of language towards their own. If 
there be a weakness in Mr. Saintsbury's view, it 
is perhaps in a tendency to regard style a little 
too independently of matter. And there are still 
some who think that, after all, the style is the 
man ; justified, in very great varieties, by the 
simple consideration of what he himself has to 
say, quite independently of any real or supposed 
connection with this or that literary age or 
school. Let us close with the words of a most 

15 



'THE GUARDIAN' ESSAYS 

versatile master of English — happily not yet 
included in Mr. Saintsbury's book — a writer 
who has dealt with all the perturbing influences 
of our century in a manner as classical, as 
idiomatic, as easy and elegant, as Steele's : 

" I wish you to observe," says Cardinal 
Newman, " that the mere dealer in words cares 
little or nothing for the subject which he is 
embellishing, but can paint and gild anything 
whatever to order ; whereas the artist, whom I 
am acknowledging, has his great or rich visions 
before him, and his only aim is to bring out 
what he thinks or what he feels in a way 
adequate to the thing spoken of, and appropriate 
to the speaker." 



i6 



II 

AMIEL'S "JOURNAL INTIME" 

17TH March 1886 



17 



AMIEL'S "JOURNAL INTIME" 

AmiePs 'Journal. The Journal Intinic of Henri- 
Frederic Amiel. Translated, with an In- 
troduction and Notes, by Mrs. Humphry 
Ward. Two vols. Macmillans. 

Certain influential expressions of opinion have 
attracted much curiosity to Amiel's Journal 
Intime, both in France, where the book has 
already made its mark, and in England, where 
Mrs. Humphry Ward's translation is likely to 
make it widely known among all serious lovers 
of good literature. Easy, idiomatic, correct, 
this English version reads like an excellent 
original English work, and gives fresh proof 
that the work of translation, if it is to be done 
with effect, must be done by those who, possess- 
ing, like Mrs. Ward, original literary gifts, are 
willing to make a long act of self-denial or self- 

19 



'THE GUARDIAN' ESSAYS 

efFacement for the benefit of the public. In this 
case, indeed, the work is not wholly one of self- 
effacement, for the accomplished translator has 
prefaced Amiel's Journal by an able and interest- 
ing essay of seventy pages on Amiel's life and 
intellectual position. And certainly there is 
much in the book, thus effectively presented to 
the English reader, to attract those who interest 
themselves in the study of the finer types of 
human nature, of literary expression, of meta- 
physical and practical philosophy ; to attract, 
above all, those interested in such philosophy, at 
points where it touches upon questions of religion, 
and especially at the present day. 

Henri-Frederic Amiel was born at Geneva in 
1 82 1. Orphaned of both his parents at the age 
of twelve, his youth was necessarily " a little bare 
and forlorn," and a deep interest in religion be- 
came fixed in him early. His student days com- 
ing to an end, the years which followed, from 
1842 to 1848 — Wa?iderjahrt\ in which he visited 
Holland, Italy, Sicily, and the principal towns 
of Germany — seem to have been the happiest 
of his life. In 1849 ^^^ became a Professor at 
Geneva, and there is little more to tell of him in 

20 



AMIEL'S 'JOURNAL INTIME ' 

the way of outward events. He published some 
volumes of verse ; to the last apparently still only 
feeling after his true literary ?neticr. Those last 
seven years were a long struggle against the dis- 
ease which ended his life, consumption, at the 
age of fifty-three. The first entry in his 'Journal 
is in 1848. From that date to his death, a 
period of over twenty -five years, this yournal 
was the real object of all the energies of his 
richly -endowed nature : and from its volumi- 
nous sheets his literary executors have selected 
the deeply interesting volumes now presented 
in English. 

With all its gifts and opportunities it was a 
melancholy life — melancholy with something not 
altogether explained by the somewhat pessimistic 
philosophy exposed in the "Journal^ nor by the 
consumptive tendency of Amiel's physical con- 
stitution, causing him from a very early date to 
be much preoccupied with the effort to reconcile 
himself with the prospect of death, and rein- 
forcing the far from sanguine temperament of 
one intellectually also a poitrinairc. 

You might think him at first sight only an 
admirable specimen of a thoroughly well-educated 

21 



'THE GUARDIAN' ESSAYS 

man, full, of course, of the modern spirit ; stimu- 
lated and formed by the influences of the varied 
intellectual world around him ; and competing, 
in his turn, with many very various types of 
contemporary ability. The use of his book to 
cultivated people might lie in its affording a kind 
of standard by which they might take measure 
of the maturity and producible quality of their 
own thoughts on a hundred important subjects. 
He will write a page or two, giving evidence of 
that accumulated power and attainment which, 
with a more strenuous temperament, might have 
sufficed for an effective volume. Continually, in 
the 'Journal^ we pause over things that would 
rank for beauties among widely differing models 
of the best French prose. He has said some 
things in Pascal's vein not unworthy of Pascal. 
He had a right to compose " Thoughts " : they 
have the force in them which makes up for their 
unavoidable want of continuity. 

But if, as Amiel himself challenges us to do, 
we look below the surface of a very equable and 
even smoothly accomplished literary manner, we 
discover, in high degree of development, that 
perplexity or complexity of soul, the expression 

22 



AMIEL'S 'JOURNAL INTIME' 

of which, so it be with an adequate literary gift, 
has its legitimate, because inevitable, interest for 
the modern reader. Senancour and Maurice de 
Guerin in one, seem to have been supplemented 
here by a larger experience, a far greater educa- 
tion, than either of them had attained to. So 
multiplex is the result that minds of quite oppo- 
site type might well discover in these pages their 
own special thought or humour, happily ex- 
pressed at last (they might think) in precisely 
that just shade of language themselves had 
searched for in vain. And with a writer so vivid 
and impressive as Amiel, those varieties of tend- 
ency are apt to present themselves as so many 
contending persons. The perplexed experience 
gets the apparent clearness, as it gets also the 
animation, of a long dialogue ; only, the dis- 
putants never part company, and there is no real 
conclusion. " This nature," he observes, of one 
of the many phases of character he has discovered 
in himself, " is, as it were, only one of the men 
which exist in me. It is one of my departments. 
It is not the whole of my territory, the whole of 
my inner kingdom " ; and again, " there are ten 
men in me, according to time, place, surrounding, 

23 



'THE GUARDIAN' ESSAYS 

and occasion ; and, in my restless diversity, I am 
for ever escaping myself." 

Yet, in truth, there are but two men in Amiel 
— two sufficiently opposed personalities, which 
the attentive reader may define for himself ; com- 
pare with, and try by each other — as we think, 
correct also by each other. There is the man, 
in him and in these pages, who would be " the 
man of disillusion," only that he has never really 
been " the man of desires " ; and who seems, 
therefore, to have a double weariness about him. 
He is akin, of course, to Obermann, to Rene, 
even to Werther, and, on our first introduction 
to him, we might think that we had to do only 
with one more of the vague " renunciants," who 
in real life followed those creations of fiction, 
and who, however delicate, interesting as a study, 
and as it were picturesque on the stage of life, 
are themselves, after all, essentially passive, un- 
creative, and therefore necessarily not of first-rate 
importance in literature. Taken for what it is 
worth, the expression of this mood — the culture 
of ennui for its own sake — is certainly carried to 
its ideal of negation by Amiel. But the com- 
pleter, the positive, soul, which will merely take 

24 



AMIEL'S 'JOURNAL INTIME' 

that mood into its service (its proper service, as 
we hold, is in counteraction to the vulgarity 
of purely positive natures) is also certainly in 
evidence in Amiel's "Thoughts" — that other, 
and far stronger person, in the long dialogue ; 
the man, in short, possessed of gifts, not for the 
renunciation, but for the reception and use, of all 
that is puissant, goodly, and effective in life, and 
for the varied and adequate literary reproduction 
of it ; who, under favourable circumstances, or 
even without them, will become critic, or poet, 
and in either case a creative force ; and if he be 
religious (as Amiel was deeply religious) will 
make the most of " evidence," and almost cer- 
tainly find a Church. 

The sort of purely poetic tendency in his 
mind, which made Amiel known in his own 
lifetime chiefly as a writer of verse, seems to be 
represented in these volumes by certain passages 
of natural description, always sincere, and some- 
times rising to real distinction. In Switzerland 
it is easy to be pleased with scenery. But the 
record of such pleasure becomes really worth 
while when, as happens with Amiel, we feel 
that there has been, and with success, an intel- 

25 



'THE GUARDIAN' ESSAYS 

lectual effort to get at the secret, the precise 
motive, of the pleasure ; to define feeling, in this 
matter. Here is a good description of an effect 
of fog, which we commend to foreigners resident 
in London : 

" Fog has certainly a poetry of its own — a 
grace, a dreamy charm. It does for the daylight 
what a lamp does for us at night ; it turns the 
mind towards meditation ; it throws the soul 
back on itself The sun, as it were, sheds us 
abroad in nature, scatters and disperses us ; mist 
draws us together and concentrates us — it is 
cordial, homely, charged with feeling. The 
poetry of the sun has something of the epic in 
it ; that of fog and mist is elegiac and religious. 
Pantheism is the child of light ; mist engenders 
faith in near protectors. When the great world 
is shut off from us, the house becomes itself a 
small universe. Shrouded in perpetual mist, 
men love each other better ; for the only reality 
then is the family, and, within the family, the 
heart ; and the greatest thoughts come from 
the heart — so says the moralist." 

It is of Swiss fog, however, that he is speak- 
ing, as, in what follows, of Swiss frost : 

26 



AMIEL'S 'JOURNAL INTIME' 

" Three snowstorms this afternoon. Poor 
blossoming plum-trees and peach-trees ! What 
a difference from six years ago, when the cherry- 
trees, adorned in their green spring dress and 
laden with their bridal flowers, smiled at my 
departure along the Vaudois fields, and the lilacs 
of Burgundy threw great gusts of perfume into 
my face ! " The weather is seldom talked of 
with so much real sensitiveness to it as in this : 

" The weather is rainy, the whole atmosphere 
grey ; it is a time favourable to thought and 
meditation. I have a liking for such days as 
these ; they revive one's converse with oneself 
and make it possible to live the inner life : they 
are quiet and peaceful, like a song in a minor 
key. We are nothing but thought, but we feel 
our life to its very centre. Our very sensations 
turn to reverie. It is a strange state of mind ; 
it is like those silences in worship which are not 
the empty moments of devotion, but the full 
moments, and which are so because at such 
times the soul, instead of being polarized, dis- 
persed, localized, in a single impression or 
thought, feels her own totality and is conscious 
of herself." 

27 



'THE GUARDIAN' ESSAYS 

" Every landscape," he writes, " is, as it were, 
a state of the soul " : and again, " At bottom 
there is but one subject of study ; the forms and 
metamorphoses of mind : all other subjects may 
be reduced to that ; all other studies bring us 
back to this study." And, in truth, if he was 
occupied with the aspects of nature to such an 
excellent literary result, still, it was with nature 
only as a phenomenon of the moral order. His 
interest, after all, is, consistently, that of the 
moralist (in no narrow sense) who deals, from 
predilection, with the sort of literary work 
which stirs men — stirs their intellect- — through 
feeling ; and with that literature, especially, as 
looked at through the means by which it became 
capable of thus commanding men. The powers, 
the culture, of the literary producer : there, is 
the centre of Amiel's curiosity. 

And if we take Amiel at his own word, we 
must suppose that but for causes, the chief of 
which were bad health and a not long life, he 
too would have produced monumental work, 
whose scope and character he would wish us to 
conjecture from his " Thoughts." Such indica- 
tions there certainly are in them. He was 

28 



AMIEL'S 'JOURNAL INTIME ' 

meant — we see it in the variety, the high level 
both of matter and style, the animation, the 
gravity, of one after another of these thoughts — 
on religion, on poetry, on politics in the highest 
sense ; on their most abstract principles, and on 
the authors who have given them a personal 
colour ; on the genius of those authors, as well 
as on their concrete works ; on outlying isolated 
subjects, such as music, and special musical com- 
posers — he was meant, if people ever are meant 
for special lines of activity, for the best sort of 
criticism, the imaginative criticism ; that criti- 
cism which is itself a kind of construction, or 
creation, as it penetrates, through the given 
literary or artistic product, into the mental and 
inner constitution of the producer, shaping his 
work. Of such critical skill, cultivated with 
all the resources of Geneva in the nineteenth 
century, he has given in this ^Journal abundant 
proofs. Corneille, Cherbuliez ; Rousseau, Sis- 
mondi ; Victor Hugo, and Joubert ; Mozart and 
Wagner — all who are interested in these men 
will find a value in what Amiel has to say of 
them. Often, as for instance in his excellent 
criticism of Quinet, he has to make large excep- 

29 



*THE GUARDIAN' ESSAYS 

tions ; limitations, skilfully effected by the way, 
in the course of a really appreciative estimate. 
Still, through all, what we feel is that we have 
to do with one who criticises in this fearlessly 
equitable manner only because he is convinced 
that his subject is of a real literary importance. 
A powerful, intellectual analysis of some well- 
marked subject, in such form as makes literature 
enduring, is indeed what the world might have 
looked for from him : those institutes of esthetics, 
for instance, which might exist, after Lessing and 
Hegel, but which certainly do not exist yet. 
" Construction," he says — artistic or literary con- 
struction — " rests upon feeling, instinct, and," 
alas ! also, " upon will." The instinct, at all 
events, was certainly his. And over and above 
that he had possessed himself of the art of ex- 
pressing, in quite natural language, very difficult 
thoughts ; those abstract and metaphysical con- 
ceptions especially, in which German mind has 
been rich, which are bad masters, but very useful 
ministers towards the understanding, towards an 
analytical survey, of all that the intellect has 
produced. 

But something held him back : not so much 

30 



AMIEL'S 'JOURNAL INTIME' 

a reluctancy of temperament, or of physical con- 
stitution (common enough cause why men of 
undeniable gifts fail of commensurate production) 
but a cause purely intellectual — the presence in 
him, namely, of a certain vein of opinion ; that 
other, constituent but contending, person, in his 
complex nature. " The relation of thought to 
action," he writes, " .illed my mind on waking, 
and I found myself carried towards a bizarre 
formula, which seems to have something of the 
night still clinging about it. Action is but 
coarsened thought.^" That is but an ingenious 
metaphysical point, as he goes on to shov^. But, 
including in " action " that literary production in 
which the line of his own proper activity lay, 
he followed — followed often — that fastidious 
utterance to a cynical and pessimistic conclusion. 
Maia^ as he calls it, the empty " Absolute " of 
the Buddhist, the " Infinite," the " All," of which 
those German metaphysicians he loved only too 
well have had so much to say : this was for ever ' 
to give the go-by to all positive, finite, limited 
interests whatever. The vague pretensions of 
an abstract expression acted on him with all the 
force of a prejudice. " The ideal," he admits, 

31 



'THE GUARDIAN' ESSAYS 

" poisons for me all imperfect possession " ; and 
again, " The Buddhist tendency in me blunts the 
faculty of free self-government, and weakens the 
power of action. I feel a terror of action and 
am only at ease in the impersonal, disinterested, 
and objective line of thought." But then, again, 
with him " action " meant chiefly literary pro- 
duction. He quotes with approval those admir- 
able words from Goethe, " In der Beschrankung 
zeigt sich erst der Meister " ; yet still always 
finds himself wavering between " frittering my- 
self away on the infinitely little, and longing 
after what is unknown and distant." There 
is, doubtless, over and above the physical con- 
sumptive tendency, an instinctive turn of senti- 
ment in this touching confession. Still, what 
strengthened both tendencies was that meta- 
physical prejudice for the " Absolute," the false 
intellectual conscience. " I have always avoided 
what attracted me, and turned my back upon 
the point where secretly I desired to be " ; 
and, of course, that is not the way to a free 
and generous productivity, in literature, or in 
anything else ; though in literature, with Amiel 
at all events, it meant the fastidiousness which 

^2 



AMIEL'S 'JOURNAL INTIME' 

is Incompatible with any but the very best sort 
of production. 

And as that abstract condition of Maia^ to the 
kind and quantity of concrete literary production 
we hold to have been originally possible for him ; 
so was the religion he actually attained, to what 
might have been the development of his pro- 
foundly religious spirit, had he been able to see 
that the old-fashioned Christianity is itself but 
the proper historic development of the true 
" essence " of the New Testament. There, 
again, is the constitutional shrinking, through a 
kind of metaphysical prejudice, from the con- 
crete — that fear of the actual — in this case, of 
the Church of history ; to which the admissions, 
which form so large a part of these volumes, 
naturally lead. Assenting, on probable evidence, 
to so many of the judgments of the religious 
sense, he failed to see the equally probable 
evidence there is for the beliefs, the peculiar 
direction of men's hopes, which complete those 
judgments harmoniously, and bring them into 
connection with the facts, the venerable institu- 
tions of the past — with the lives of the saints. 
By failure, as we think, of that historic sense, of 



'THE GUARDIAN' ESSAYS 

which he could speak so well, he got no further 
in this direction than the glacial condition of 
rationalistic Geneva. " Philosophy," he says, 
" can never replace religion." Only, one cannot 
see why it might not replace a religion such as 
his : a religion, after all, much like Seneca's. 
" I miss something," he himself confesses, " com- 
mon worship, a positive religion, shared with 
other people. Ah ! when will the Church to 
which I belong in heart rise into being ? " To 
many at least of those who can detect the ideal 
through the disturbing circumstances which be- 
long to all actual institutions in the world, it 
was already there. Pascal, from considerations 
to which Amiel was no stranger, came to the 
large hopes of the Catholic Church ; Amiel 
stopped short at a faith almost hopeless ; and by 
stopping short just there he really failed, as we 
think, of intellectual consistency, and missed that 
appeasing influence which his nature demanded 
as the condition of its full activity, as a force, an 
intellectual force, in the world — in the special 
business of his life. " Welcome the unfore- 
seen," he says again, by way of a counsel of 
perfection in the matter of culture, " but give to 

34 



AMIEL'S 'JOURNAL INTIME' 

your life unity, and bring the unforeseen within 
the lines of your plan," Bring, we should add, 
the Great Possibility at least within the lines of 
your plan — your plan of action or production ; 
of morality ; especially of your conceptions of 
religion. And still, Amiel too, be it remem- 
bered (we are not afraid to repeat it), has said 
some things in Pascal's vein not unworthy of 
Pascal. 

And so we get only the 'journal. Watch- 
ing in it, in the way we have suggested, the 
contention of those two men, those two minds 
in him, and observing how the one might have 
ascertained and corrected the shortcomings of 
the other, we certainly understand, and can 
sympathize with Amiel's despondency in the 
retrospect of a life which seemed to have been 
but imperfectly occupied. But, then, how ex- 
cellent a literary product, after all, the 'Journal 
is. And already we have found that it improves 
also on second reading. A book of " thoughts " 
should be a book that may be fairly dipped into, 
and yield good quotable sayings. Here are some 
of its random offerings : 

" Look twice, if what you want is a just 

35 



'THE GUARDIAN' ESSAYS 

conception ; look once, if what you want is a 
sense of beauty." 

" It is not history which teaches conscience 
to be honest ; it is the conscience which edu- 
cates history. Fact is corrupting — it is we who 
correct it by the persistence of our ideal." 

" To do easily what is difficult for others is 
the mark of talent. To do what is impossible 
for talent is the mark of genius." 

" Duty has the virtue of making us feel the 
reality of a positive world, while at the same 
time detaching us from it." 

" As it is impossible to be outside God, the 
best is consciously to dwell in Him." 

"He also (the Son of Man), He above all, 
is the great Misunderstood, the least compre- 
hended." 

" The pensee writer is to the philosopher what 
the dilettante is to the artist." 

There are some, we know, who hold that 
genius cannot, in the nature of things, be 
*' sterile " ; that there are no " mute " Miltons, 
or the like. Well ! genius, or only a very dis- 
tinguished talent, the gift which Amiel nursed 
so jealously did come into evidence. And the 

36 



AMIEL'S 'JOURNAL INTIME ' 

reader, we hope, sees also already how well his 
English translator has done her work. She may 
justly feel, as part at least of the reward of a 
labour which must have occupied much time, 
so many of the freshest hours of mind and spirit, 
that she has done something to help her author 
in the achievement of his, however discouraged 
still irrepressible, desire, by giving additional 
currency to a book which the best sort of 
readers will recognize as an excellent and cer- 
tainly very versatile companion, not to be 
forgotten. 



37 



Ill 

BROWNING 

jTH November 1887 



39 



BROWNING 

An Introduction to the Study of Broiioning, 
By Arthur Symons. Cassells. 

Whether it be true or not that Mr. Browning 
is justly chargeable with " obscurity " — with a 
difficulty of manner, that is, beyond the intrinsic 
difficulty of his matter — it is very probable that 
an Introduction to the study of his works, such 
as this of Mr. Symons, will add to the number 
of his readers. Mr. Symons's opening essay on 
the general characteristics of Mr. Browning is a 
just and acceptable appreciation of his poetry as 
a whole, well worth reading, even at this late 
day. We find in Mr. Symons the thoughtful 
and practised yet enthusiastic student in litera- 
ture — in intellectual problems ; always quiet 
and sane, praising Mr. Browning with tact, with 
a real refinement and grace ; saying well many 

41 



'THE GUARDIAN' ESSAYS 

things which every competent reader ot the 
great poet must feel to be true ; devoting to the 
subject he loves a critical gift so considerable as to 
make us wish for work from his hands of larger 
scope than this small volume. His book is, 
according to his intention, before all things a 
useful one. Appreciating Mr. Browning fairly, 
as we think, in all his various efforts, his aim 
is to point his readers to the best, the indis- 
putable, rather than to the dubious portions of 
his author's work. Not content with his own 
excellent general criticism of Mr. Browning, he 
guides the reader to his works, or division of 
work, seriatim^ making of each a distinct and 
special study, and giving a great deal of welcome 
information about the poems, the circumstances 
of their composition, and the like, with de- 
lightful quotations. Incidentally, his Introduc- 
tion has the interest of a brief but effective 
selection from Mr. Browning's poems ; and he 
has added an excellent biography. 

Certainly we shall not quarrel with Mr. 
Symons for reckoning Mr. Browning, among 
English poets, second to Shakespeare alone — 
" He comes very near the gigantic total of 

42 



BROWNING 

Shakespeare." The quantity of his work ? Yes ! 
that too, in spite of a considerable unevenness, is 
a sign of genius. " So large, indeed, appear to 
be his natural endowments that we cannot feel 
as if even thirty volumes would have come near 
to exhausting them." Imaginatively, indeed, 
Mr. Browning has been a multitude of persons ; 
only (as Shakespeare's only untried style was the 
simple one) almost never simple ones ; and cer- 
tainly he has controlled them all to profoundly 
interesting artistic ends by his own powerful 
personality. The world and all its action, as a 
show of thought, that is the scope of his work. 
It makes him pre-eminently a modern poet — a 
poet of the self- pondering, perfectly educated, 
modern world, which, having come to the end 
of all direct and purely external experiences, 
must necessarily turn for its entertainment to the 
world within : — 

" The men and women who live and move 
in that new world of his creation are as varied as 
life itself; they are kings and beggars, saints and 
lovers, great captains, poets, painters, musicians, 
priests and Popes, Jews, gipsies and dervishes, 
street-girls, princesses, dancers with the wicked 

43 



'THE GUARDIAN' ESSAYS 

witchery of the daughter of Herodias, wives 
with the devotion of the wife of Brutus, joyous 
girls and malevolent grey -beards, statesmen, 
cavaliers, soldiers of humanity, tyrants and 
bigots, ancient sages and modern spiritualists, 
heretics, scholars, scoundrels, devotees, rabbis, 
persons of quality and men of low estate — men 
and women as multiform as nature or society 
has made them." 

The individual, the personal, the concrete, as 
distinguished from, yet revealing in its fulness, the 
general, the universal — that is Mr. Browning's 
chosen subject-matter : — " Every man is for him 
an epitome of the universe, a centre of creation." 
It is always the particular soul, and the particular 
act or episode, as the flower of the particular 
soul — the act or episode by which its quality 
comes to the test — in which he interests us. 
With him it is always " a drama of the interior, 
a tragedy or comedy of the soul, to see thereby 
how each soul becomes conscious of itself." In 
the Preface to the later edition of Sordello, Mr. 
Browning himself told us that to him little 
else seems worth study except the development 
of a soul, the incidents, the story, of that. And, 

44 



BROWNING 

in fact, the intellectual public generally agrees 
with him. It is because he has ministered with 
such marvellous vigour, and variety, and fine 
skill to this interest, that he is the most modern, 
to modern people the most important, of poets. 

So much for Mr. Browning's matter ; for his 
manner, we hold Mr. Symons right in thinking 
him a master of all the arts of poetry. " These 
extraordinary little poems," says Mr. Symons of 
"Johannes Agricola" and "Porphyria's Lover" — 

" Reveal not only an imagination of intense 
fire and heat, but an almost finished art — a 
power of conceiving subtle mental complexities 
with clearness and of expressing them in a pic- 
turesque form and in perfect lyric language. 
Each poem renders a single mood, and renders 
it completely." 

Well, after all, that is true of a large portion 
of Mr, Browning's work. A curious, an erudite 
artist, certainly, he is to some extent an experi- 
menter in rhyme or metre, often hazardous. 
But in spite of the dramatic rudeness which is 
sometimes of the idiosyncrasy, the true and 
native colour of his multitudinous dramatis per- 
sonce^ or monologists, Mr. Symons is right in 

45 



'THE GUARDIAN' ESSAYS 

laying emphasis on the grace, the finished skill, 
the music, native and ever ready to the poet 
himself — tender, manly, humorous, awe-stricken 
— when speaking in his own proper person. 
Music herself, the analysis of the musical soul, 
in the characteristic episodes of its development 
is a wholly new range of poetic subject in which 
Mr. Browning is simply unique. Mr. Symons 
tells us : — 

" When Mr. Browning was a mere boy, it is 
recorded that he debated within himself whether 
he should not become a painter or a musician as 
well as a poet. Finally, though not, I believe, 
for a good many years, he decided in the nega- 
tive. But the latent qualities of painter and 
musician had developed themselves in his poetry, 
and much of his finest and very much of his 
most original verse is that which speaks the 
language of painter and musician as it had never 
before been spoken. No English poet before 
him has ever excelled his utterances on music, 
none has so much as rivalled his utterances on 
art. ' Abt Vogler ' is the richest, deepest, fullest 
poem on music in the language. It is not the 
theories of the poet, but the instincts of the 

46 



BROWNING 

musician, that it speaks. ' Master Hugues of 
Saxe-Gotha,' another special poem on music, is 
unparalleled for ingenuity of technical interpre- 
tation : ' A Toccata of Galuppi's ' is as rare a 
rendering as can anywhere be found of the im- 
pressions and sensations caused by a musical 
piece ; but ' Abt Vogler ' is a very glimpse into 
the heaven where music is born." 

It is true that " when the head has to be 
exercised before the heart there is chilling of 
sympathy." Of course, so intellectual a poet 
(and only the intellectual poet, as we have 
pointed out, can be adequate to modern de- 
mands) will have his difficulties. They were a 
part of the poet's choice of vocation, and he was 
fully aware of them : — 

" Mr. Browning might say, as his wife said 
in an early preface, I never mistook pleasure for 
the final cause of poetry, nor leisure for the hour 
of the poet — as indeed he has himself said, to 
much the same effect, in a letter printed many 
years ago : I never pretended to offer such 
literature as should be a substitute for a cigar 
or a game at dominoes to an idle man." 

" Moreover, while a writer who deals with 

47 



'THE GUARDIAN' ESSAYS 

easy themes has no excuse if he is not pellucid 
to a glance, one who employs his intellect and 
imagination on high and hard questions has a 
right to demand a corresponding closeness of 
attention, and a right to say with Bishop Butler, 
in answer to a similar complaint : ' It must be 
acknowledged that some of the following dis- 
courses are very abstruse and difficult, or, if you 
please, obscure ; but I must take leave to add 
that those alone are judges whether or no, and 
how far this is a fault, who are judges whether 
or no, and how far it might have been avoided 
— those only who will be at the trouble to 
understand what is here said, and to see how 
far the things here insisted upon, and not 
other things, might have been put in a plainer 
manner.' " 

In Mr. Symons's opinion Pippa Passes is 
Mr. Browning's most perfect piece of work, for 
pregnancy of intellect, combined with faultless 
expression in a perfectly novel yet symmetrical 
outline : and he is very likely right. He is 
certainly right in thinking Men and Women, 
as they formerly stood, Mr. Browning's most 
delightful volumes. It is only to be regretted 

48 



BROWNING 

that in the later collected edition of the works 
those two magical old volumes are broken up 
and scattered under other headings. We think 
also that Mr. Symons in his high praise does no 
more than justice to The Ring and the Book. 
The Ring and the Book is at once the largest 
and the greatest of Mr. Browning's works, the 
culmination of his dramatic method, and the 
turning-point more decisively than Dramatis 
Personce of his style. Yet just here he 
rightly marks a change in Mr. Browning's 
manner : — 

" Not merely the manner of presentment, the 
substance, and also the style and versification have 
undergone a change. I might point to the pro- 
found intellectual depth of certain pieces as its 
characteristic, or, equally, to the traces here and 
there of an apparent carelessness of workman- 
ship ; or, yet again, to the new and very marked 
partiality for scenes and situations of English 
and modern rather than medieval and foreign 
life." 

Noble as much of Mr. Browning's later 
work is, full of intellect, alive with excellent 
passages (in the first volume of the Dramatic Idyls 
E 49 



'THE GUARDIAN' ESSAYS 

perhaps more powerful than in any earlier work) ; 
notwithstanding all that, we think the change 
here indicated matter of regret. After all, we 
have to conjure up ideal poets for ourselves out 
of those who stand in or behind the range of 
volumes on our book -shelves ; and our ideal 
Browning would have for his entire structural 
type those two volumes of Men and Women 
with Pippa Passes. 

Certainly, it is a delightful world to which 
Mr. Browning has given us the key, and those 
volumes a delightful gift to our age-record of so 
much that is richest in the world of things, and 
men, and their works — all so much the richer by 
the great intellect, the great imagination, which 
has made the record, transmuted them into im- 
perishable things of art : — 

" ' With souls should souls have place ' — this, 
with Mr. Browning, is something more than a 
mere poetical conceit. It is the condensed ex- 
pression of an experience, a philosophy, and an 
art. Like the lovers of his lyric, Mr. Browning 
has renounced the selfish serenities of wild-wood 
■ and dream -palace ; he has fared up and down 
among men, listening to the music of humanity, 

50 



BROWNING 

observing the acts of men, and he has sung what 
he has heard, and he has painted what he has 
seen. Will the work live ? we ask ; and we can 
answer only in his own words — 

It lives. 
If precious be the soul of man to man." 



51 



IV 
ROBERT ELSMERE 

28th March iI 



53 



'ROBERT ELSMERE' 

Those who, in this busthng age, turn to fiction 
not merely for a little passing amusement, but 
for profit, for the higher sort of pleasure, will 
do well, we think (after a conscientious perusal 
on our own part) to bestow careful reading on 
Robert Elsmere. A chef cCceiivre of that kind 
of quiet evolution of character through circum- 
stance, introduced into English literature by Miss 
Austen, and carried to perfection in France by 
George Sand (who is more to the point, because, 
like Mrs, Ward, she was not afraid to challenge 
novel-readers to an interest in religious questions), 
it abounds in sympathy with people as we find 
them, in aspiration towards something better — 
towards a certain ideal — in a refreshing sense of 
second thoughts everywhere. The author clearly 
has developed a remarkable natural aptitude for 
literature by liberal reading and most patient care 

55 



'THE GUARDIAN' ESSAYS 

in composition — composition in that narrower 
sense which is concerned with the building of a 
good sentence ; as also in that wider sense, which 
ensures, in a work like this, with so many joints, 
so many currents of interest, a final unity of im- 
pression on the part of the reader, and easy transi- 
tion by him from one to the other. Well-used 
to works of fiction which tell all they have to 
tell in one thin volume, we have read Mrs. 
Ward's three volumes with unflagging readiness. 
For, in truth, that quiet method of evolution, 
which she pursues undismayed to the end, requires 
a certain len^thiness ; and the reader's reward 
will be in a secure sense that he has been in 
intercourse with no mere flighty remnants, but 
with typical forms, of character, firmly and fully 
conceived. We are persuaded that the author 
might have written a novel which should have 
been all shrewd impressions of society, or all 
humorous impressions of country life, or all quiet 
fun and genial caricature. Actually she has 
chosen to combine something of each of these 
with a very sincerely felt religious interest ; and 
who will deny that to trace the influence of 
religion upon human character is one of the 

56 



'ROBERT ELSMERE' 

legitimate functions of the novel ? In truth, the 
modern " novel of character " needs some such 
interest, to lift it sufficiently above the humdrum 
of life ; as men's horizons are enlarged by religion, 
of whatever type it may be — and we may say at 
once that the religious type which is dear to Mrs. 
Ward, though avowedly " broad," is not really 
the broadest. Having conceived her work thus, 
she has brought a rare instinct for probability 
and nature to the difficult task of combining this 
religious motive and all the learned thought it 
involves, with a very genuine interest in many 
varieties of average mundane life. 

We should say that the author's special ethical 
gift lay in a delicately intuitive sympathy, not, 
perhaps, with all phases of character, but certainly 
with the very varied class of persons represented 
in these volumes. It may be congruous with 
this, perhaps, that her success should be more 
assured in dealing with the characters of women 
than with those of men. The men who pass 
before us in her pages, though real and tangible 
and effective enough, seem, nevertheless, from 
time to time to reveal their joinings. They are 
composite of many different men we seem to have 

57 



'THE GUARDIAN' ESSAYS 

known, and fancy we could detach again from the 
ensemble and from each other. And their good- 
ness, when they are good, is — well ! a little 
conventional ; the kind of goodness that men 
themselves discount rather largely in their esti- 
mates of each other. Robert himself is certainly 
worth knowing — a really attractive union of 
manliness and saintliness, of shrewd sense and 
unworldly aims, and withal with that kindness 
and pity the absence of which so often abates the 
actual value of those other gifts. Mrs. Ward's 
literary power is sometimes seen at its best (it 
is a proof of her high cultivation of this power 
that so it should be) in the analysis of minor 
characters, both male and female. Richard 
Leyburn, deceased before the story begins, but 
warm in the memory of the few who had known 
him, above all of his great- souled daughter 
Catherine, strikes us, with his religious mysti- 
cism, as being in this way one of the best things 
in the book : — 

" Poor Richard Leyburn ! Yet where had 
the defeat lain ? 

"'Was he happy in his school life.?' Robert 
asked gently. ' Was teaching what he liked ? ' 

58 



* ROBERT ELSMERE' 

" ' Oh ! yes, only ' Catherine paused 

and then added hurriedly, as though drawn on 
in spite of herself by the grave sympathy of his 
look, ' I never knew anybody so good who 
thought himself of so little account. He always 
believed that he had missed everything, wasted 
everything, and that anybody else would have 
made infinitely more out of his life. He was 
always blaming, scourging himself. And all the 
time he was the noblest, purest, most devoted ' 

" She stopped. Her voice had passed beyond 
her control. Elsmere was startled by the feeling 
she showed. Evidently he had touched one of 
the few sore places in this pure heart. It was 
as though her memory of her father had in it 
elements of almost intolerable pathos, as though 
the child's brooding love and loyalty were in per- 
petual protest even now after this lapse of years 
against the verdict which an over-scrupulous, 
despondent soul had pronounced upon itself. 
Did she feel that he had gone uncomforted out 
of life — even by her — even by religion ? Was 
that the sting ? " 

A little later she gives the record of his last 
hours : — 

59 



'THE GUARDIAN' ESSAYS 

" ' Catherine ! Life is harder, the narrower 
way narrower than ever. I die ' — and memory- 
caught still the piteous long-drawn breath by 
which the voice was broken — ' in much — much 
perplexity about many things. You have a clear 
soul, an iron will. Strengthen the others. Bring 
them safe to the day of account.' " 

And then the smaller — some of them, ethic- 
ally, very small — women ; Lady Wynnstay, Mrs. 
Fleming, Mrs. Thornburgh ; above all, Robert's 
delightful Irish mother, and Mrs. Darcy ; how 
excellent they are ! Mrs. Darcy we seem to 
have known, yet cannot have enough of, rejoiced 
to catch sight of her capital letter on the page, 
as we read on. In truth, if a high and ideal 
purpose, really learned in the school of Words- 
worth and among the Westmorland hills which 
Mrs. Ward describes so sympathetically, with fit- 
ting dignity and truth of style, has accompanied the 
author throughout ; no less plain, perhaps more 
pleasing to some readers, is the quiet humour 
which never fails her, and tests, while it relieves, 
the sincerity of her more serious thinking : — 

" At last Mrs. Darcy fluttered off, only, how- 
ever, to come hurrying back with little, short, 

60 



'ROBERT ELSMERE' 

scudding steps, to implore them all to come to 
tea with her as soon as possible in the garden 
that was her special hobby, and in her last new 
summer-house. 

" ' I build two or three every summer,' she 
said; 'now there are twenty - one ! Roger 
laughs at me,' and there was a momentary bitter- 
ness in the little eerie face ; ' but how can one 
live without hobbies ? That's one — then I've 
two more. My album — oh, you will all write 
in my album, won't you ? When I was young 
— when I was Maid of Honour ' — and she drew 
herself up slightly — 'everybody had albums. 
Even the dear Queen herself ! I remember 
how she made M. Guizot write in it ; some- 
thing quite stupid, after all. Those hobbies — 
the garden and the album — are quite harmless, 
aren't they ? They hurt nobody, do they ? ' 
Her voice dropped a little, with a pathetic 
expostulating intonation in it, as of one accus- 
tomed to be rebuked." 

Mrs. Ward's women, as we have said, are 
more organic, sympathetic, and really creative, 
than her men, and make their vitality evident by 
becoming, quite naturally, the centres of very 

6i 



'THE GUARDIAN' ESSAYS 

life-like and dramatic groups of people, family or 
social ; while her men are the very genii of isola- 
tion and division. It is depressing to see so 
really noble a character as Catherine soured, as 
we feel, and lowered, as time goes on, from the 
happy resignation of the first volume (in which 
solemn, beautiful, and entire, and so very real, 
she is like a poem of Wordsworth) down to the 
mere passivity of the third volume, and the 
closing scene of Robert Elsmere's days, very 
exquisitely as this episode of unbelieving yet 
saintly biography has been conceived and exe- 
cuted. Catherine certainly, for one, has no profit 
in the development of Robert's improved gospel. 
The " stray sheep," we think, has by no means 
always the best of the argument, and her story 
is really a sadder, more testing one than his. 
Though both alike, we admit it cordially, have 
a genuine sense of the eternal moral charm of 
" renunciation," something even of the thirst for 
martyrdom, for those wonderful, inaccessible, 
cold heights of the Imitation^ eternal also in 
their irsthetic charm. 

These characters and situations, pleasant or 
profoundly interesting, which it is good to have 

62 



'ROBERT ELSMERE' 

come across, are worked out, not in rapid 
sketches, nor by hazardous epigram, but more 
securely by patient analysis ; and though we 
have said that Mrs. Ward is most successful in 
female portraiture, her own mind and culture 
have an unmistakable virility and grasp and 
scientific firmness. This indispensable intel- 
lectual process, which will be relished by 
admirers of George Eliot, is relieved constantly 
by the sense of a charming landscape background, 
for the most part English. Mrs. Ward has been 
a true disciple in the school of Wordsworth, and 
really undergone its influence. Her Westmor- 
land scenery is more than a mere background ; 
its spiritual and, as it were, personal hold on 
persons^ as understood by the great poet of the 
Lakes, is seen actually at work, in the formation, 
in the refining, of character. It has been a 
stormy day : — 

" Before him the great hollow of High Fell 
was just coming out from the white mists 
surging round it. A shaft of sunlight lay across 
its upper end, and he caught a marvellous appari- 
tion of a sunlit valley hung in air, a pale strip of 
blue above it, a white thread of stream wavering 



'THE GUARDIAN' ESSAYS 

through it, and all around it and below it the 
rolling rain-clouds." 

There is surely something of " natural magic " 
in that ! The wilder capacity of the mountains 
is brought out especially in a weird story of a 
haunted girl, an episode well illustrating the 
writer's more imaginative psychological power ; 
for, in spite of its quiet general tenour, the book 
has its adroitly managed elements of sensation — 
witness the ghost, in which the average human 
susceptibility to supernatural terrors takes revenge 
on the sceptical Mr. Wendover, and the love- 
scene with Madame de Netteville, which, like 
those other exciting passages, really furthers the 
development of the proper ethical interests of 
the book. The Oxford episodes strike us as 
being not the author's strongest work, as being 
comparatively conventional, coming, as they do, 
in a book whose predominant note is reality. 
Yet her sympathetic command over, her power 
of evoking, the genius of places, is clearly shown 
in the touches by which she brings out the so 
well-known grey and green of college and garden 
— touches which bring the real Oxford to the 
mind's eye better than any elaborate description 

64 



'ROBERT ELSMERE' 

— for the beauty of the place itself resides also 
in delicate touches. The book passes indeed, 
successively, through distinct, broadly conceived 
phases of scenery, which, becoming veritable 
parts of its texture, take hold on the reader, as 
if in an actual sojourn in the places described. 
Surrey — its genuine though almost suburban 
wildness, with the vicarage and the wonderful 
abode, above all, the ancient library of Mr. 
Wendover, all is admirably done, the landscape 
naturally counting for a good deal in the develop- 
ment of the profoundly meditative, country- 
loving souls of Mrs. Ward's favourite characters. 
Well ! Mrs. Ward has chosen to use all these 
varied gifts and accomplishments for a certain 
purpose. Briefly, Robert Elsmere, a priest of 
the Anglican Church, marries a very religious 
woman ; there is the perfection of " mutual 
love " ; at length he has doubts about " historic 
Christianity " ; he gives up his orders ; carries 
his learning, his fine intellect, his goodness, nay, 
his saintliness, into a kind of Unitarianism ; the 
wife becomes more intolerant than ever ; there 
is a long and faithful efiFort on both sides, eventu- 
ally successful, on the part of these mentally 

F 65 



'THE GUARDIAN' ESSAYS 

divided people, to hold together ; ending with 
the hero's death, the genuine piety and resigna- 
tion of which is the crowning touch in the 
author's able, learned, and thoroughly sincere 
apology for Robert Elsmere's position. 

For good or evil, the sort of doubts which 
troubled Robert Elsmere are no novelty in 
literature, and we think the main issue of the 
" religious question " is not precisely where 
Mrs. Ward supposes — that it has advanced, in 
more senses than one, beyond the point raised 
by Renan's Vie de Jesus. Of course, a man 
such as Robert Elsmere came to be ought not 
to be a clergyman of the Anglican Church. 
The priest is still, and will, we think, remain, 
one of the necessary types of humanity ; and he 
is untrue to his type, unless, with whatever 
inevitable doubts in this doubting age, he feels, 
on the whole, the preponderance in it of those 
influences which make for faith. It is his 
triumph to achieve as much faith as possible in 
an age of negation. Doubtless, it is part of the 
ideal of the Anglican Church that, under certain 
safeguards, it should find room for latitudinarians 
even among its clergy. Still, with these, as 

66 



'ROBERT ELSMERE' 

with all other genuine priests, it is the positive 
not the negative result that justifies the position. 
We have little patience w^ith those liberal clergy 
who dwell on nothing else than the difficulties 
of faith and the propriety of concession to the 
opposite force. Yes ! Robert Elsmere was 
certainly right in ceasing to be a clergyman. 
But it strikes us as a blot on his philosophical 
pretensions that he should have been both so 
late in perceiving the difficulty, and then so 
sudden and trenchant in dealing with so great 
and complex a question. Had he possessed a 
perfectly philosophic or scientific temper he 
would have hesitated. This is not the place 
to discuss in detail the theological position very 
ably and seriously argued by Mrs. Ward. All 
we can say is that, one by one, Elsmere's 
objections may be met by considerations of the 
same genus^ and not less equal weight, relatively 
to a world so obscure, in its origin and issues, 
as that in which we live. 

Robert Elsmere was a type of a large class 
of minds which cannot be sure that the sacred 
story is true. It is philosophical, doubtless, and 
a duty to the intellect to recognize our doubts, 

67 



'THE GUARDIAN' ESSAYS 

to locate them, perhaps to give them practical 
effect. It may be also a moral duty to do this. 
But then there is also a large class of minds 
which cannot be sure it is false — minds of very 
various degrees of conscientiousness and intel- 
lectual pov^^er, up to the highest. They will 
think those who are quite sure it is false un- 
philosophical through lack of doubt. For their 
part, they make allowance in their scheme of 
life for a great possibility, and with some of 
them that bare concession of possibility (the 
subject of it being what it is) becomes the 
most important fact in the world. The recog- 
nition of it straightway opens wide the door 
to hope and love ; and such persons are, as we 
fancy they always will be, the nucleus of a 
Church. Their particular phase of doubt, of 
philosophic uncertainty, has been the secret of 
millions of good Christians, multitudes of worthy 
priests. They knit themselves to believers, in 
various degrees, of all ages. As against the 
purely negative action of the scientific spirit, 
the high-pitched Grey, the theistic Elsmere, 
the " ritualistic priest," the quaint Methodist 
Fleming, both so admirably sketched, present 

68 



'ROBERT ELSMERE' 

perhaps no unconquerable differences. The 
question of the day is not between one and 
another of these, but in another sort of opposition, 
well defined by Mrs. Ward herself, between — 

" Two estimates of life — the estimate which 
is the offspring of the scientific spirit, and which 
is for ever making the visible world fairer and 
more desirable in mortal eyes ; and the estimate 
of Saint Augustine." 

To us, the belief in God, in goodness at all, 
in the story of Bethlehem, does not rest on 
evidence so diverse in character and force as 
Mrs. Ward supposes. At his death Elsmere 
has started what to us would be a most un- 
attractive place of worship, where he preaches an 
admirable sermon on the purely human aspect 
of the life of Christ. But we think there would 
be very few such sermons in the new church 
or chapel, for the interest of that life could 
hardly be very varied, when all such sayings 
as that " though He was rich, for our sakes He 
became poor " have ceased to be applicable to 
it. It is the infinite nature of Christ which has 
led to such diversities of genius in preaching as 
St. Francis, and Taylor, and Wesley. 

69 



'THE GUARDIAN' ESSAYS 

And after all we fear we have been unjust to 
Mrs. Ward's work. If so, we should read once 
more, and advise our readers to read, the pro- 
foundly thought and delicately felt chapter — 
chapter forty- three in her third volume — in 
which she describes the final spiritual reunion, 
on a basis of honestly diverse opinion, of the 
husband and wife. Her view, we think, could 
hardly have been presented more attractively. 
For ourselves we can only thank her for pleasure 
and profit in the reading of her book, which 
has refreshed actually the first and deepest springs 
of feeling, while it has charmed the literary 
sense. 



70 



V 

THEIR MAJESTIES' SERVANTS 

27TH June il 



71 



THEIR MAJESTIES' SERVANTS 

Annals of the English Stage, from Thomas Betterton 
to 'Edmund Kean. By Dr. Doran, F.S.A. 
Edited and revised by Robert W. Lowe. 
John C. Nimmo. 

Those who care for the history of the drama 
as a branch of literature, or for the history of 
that general development of human manners of 
which the stage has been always an element 
and a very lively measure or index, will be 
grateful to Mr. Lowe for this revised and 
charmingly illustrated edition of Dr. Doran's 
pleasant old book. Three hundred years and 
more of a singularly varied and vivacious sort 
of history ! — it was a bold thing to under- 
take ; and Dr. Doran did his work well — did 
it with adequate " love." These Amials of the 
English Stage, from Thomas Betterton to Edmund 

73 



'THE GUARDIAN' ESSAYS 

Kean, are full of the colours of life in their 
most emphatic and motley contrasts, as is 
natural in proportion as the stage itself concen- 
trates and artificially intensifies the character 
and conditions of ordinary life. The long 
story of " Their Majesties' Servants," treated 
thus, becomes from age to age an agreeable 
addition to those personal memoirs — Evelyn's, 
and the like — w^hich bring the influence and 
charm of a visible countenance to the dry tenour 
of ordinary history, and the critic's work upon 
it naturally becomes, in the first place, a mere 
gathering of some of the flowers which lie so 
abundantly scattered here and there. 

A history of the English stage must necessarily 
be in part a history of one of the most delightful 
of subjects — old London, of which from time 
to time we catch extraordinary glimpses in Dr. 
Doran's pages. From 1682 to 1695, as if the 
Restoration had not come, there was but one 
theatre in London. In Charles I.'s time Shore- 
ditch was the dramatic quarter of London par 
excellence : — 

" The popular taste was not only there 
directed towards the stage, but it was a district 

74 



THEIR MAJESTIES' SERVANTS 

wherein many actors dwelt, and consequently 
died. The baptismal register of St. Leonard's, 
Shoreditch, contains Christian names which 
appear to have been chosen with reference to 
the heroines of Shakespeare ; and the record 
of burials bears the name of many an old actor 
of mark whose remains now lie within the 
churchyard." 

Earlier and later, the Surrey side of the 
Thames was the favourite locality for play- 
houses. The Globe was there, and the Bear- 
garden, represented in Mr. Lowe's luxurious 
new edition by delightful woodcuts. For this 
new edition adds to the original merits of the 
work the very substantial charm ot abundant 
illustrations, iirst-rate in subject and execution, 
and of three kinds — copper-plate likenesses of 
actors and other personages connected with 
theatrical history ; a series of delicate, pictur- 
esque, highly detailed woodcuts of theatrical 
topography, chiefly the little old theatres ; and, 
by way of tail-pieces to the chapters, a second 
series of woodcuts of a vigour and reality of 
information, within very limited compass, which 
make one think of Callot and the German 

75 



'THE GUARDIAN' ESSAYS 

" little masters," depicting Garrick and other 
famous actors in their favourite scenes. 

In the vignettes of the Bear-garden and the 
Swan Theatre, for instance, the artist has 
managed to throw over his minute plate a 
wonderful air of pleasantness, a light which, 
though very delicate, is very theatrical. The 
river and its tiny craft, the little gabled houses 
of the neighbourhood, with a garden or two 
dropped in, tell delightfully in the general effect. 
They are worthy to rank with Cruikshank's 
illustrations of 'Jack Sheppar-d and The Tower 
of London^ as mementoes of the little old 
smokeless London before the century of Johnson, 
though that, too, as Dr. Doran bears witness, 
knew what fogs could be. Then there is 
the Fortune Theatre near Cripplegate, and, 
most charming of all, two views — street and 
river fronts — the Duke's Theatre, Dorset Garden, 
in Fleet Street, designed by Wren, decorated 
by Gibbons — graceful, naive, dainty, like the 
work of a very refined Palladio, working 
minutely, perhaps more delicately than at 
Vicenza, in the already crowded city on the 
Thames side. 

J6 



THEIR MAJESTIES' SERVANTS 

The portraits of actors and other theatrical 
celebrities range from Elizabeth, from the 
melodramatic costumes and faces of the con- 
temporaries of Shakespeare, to the conventional 
costumes, the rotund expression, of the age of 
the Georges, masking a power of imaginative 
impersonation probably unknown in Shakespeare's 
day. Edward Burbage, like Shakespeare's own 
portrait, is, we venture to think, a trifle stolid. 
Field — Nathaniel Field, author of The Fatal 
Dowry, and an actor of reputation — in his 
singular costume, and with a face of perhaps 
not quite reassuring subtlety, might pass for 
the original of those Italian, or Italianized, 
voluptuaries in sin which pleased the fancy of 
Shakespeare's age. Mixed up with many strik- 
ing, thoroughly dramatic physiognomies, it 
must be confessed that some of these portraits 
scarcely help at all to explain the power of 
the players to whom they belonged. That, 
perhaps, is what we might naturally expect ; 
the more, in proportion as the dramatic art is 
a matter in which many very subtle and indirect 
channels to men's sympathy are called into play. 
Edward Alleyn, from the portrait preserved at 

77 



'THE GUARDIAN' ESSAYS 

his noble foundation at Dulwich, like a fine 
Holbein, figures, in blent strength and delicacy, 
as a genial, or perhaps jovial, soul, finding time 
for sentiment, — Prynne (included, we suppose, 
in this company, like the skull at the feast) as 
a likable if somewhat melancholic young man ; 
while Garrick and his wife playing cards, after 
Zoffany, present a pair of just very nice young 
people. On the other hand, the tail -pieces, 
chiefly devoted to Garrick, prove what a wonder- 
ful natural variety there was in Garrick's soul, 
and are well worth comparative study. Notice- 
able again, among the whole-plate portraits, is 
the thoroughly reassuring countenance of Steele, 
the singularly fine heads of John, Charles, and 
Fanny Kemble, while the certainly plain, 
pinched countenance of William Davenant re- 
minds one of Charles Kean, and might well 
have lighted up, as did his, when the soul came 
into it, into power and charm, as the speaking 
eyes assure us even in its repose. 

The Renaissance inherited the old foolish pre- 
judice of Roman times, when, although the 
writers of plays were the intimate friends of 
emperors, the actors were thought infamous. 

78 



THEIR MAJESTIES' SERVANTS 

Still, on the whole, actors fared better in England 
than in Romanist France, where Moliere was 
buried with less ceremony than a favourite dog. 
Very different was the treatment of the eminent 
Mrs. Oldfield, who died in 1730 : — 

" Poor ' Narcissa ' after death (says Walpole) 
was attired in a Holland nightdress, with tucker 
and double ruffles of Brunswick lace, of which 
latter material she also wore a headdress, and 
a pair of new kid gloves. In this dress the 
deceased actress received such honour as actress 
never received before, nor has ever received 
since. The lady lay in state in the Jerusalem 
Chamber. Had she been really a queen the 
public could not have thronged more eagerly 
to the spectacle ; and after the lying in state 
there was a funeral of as much ceremony as has 
been observed at the obsequies of many a queen. 
There were anthems and prayers and a sermon ; 
and Dr. Parker, who officiated, remarked, when 
all was over, to a few particular friends, and 
with some equivocation, as it seems to me, that 
he ' buried her very willingly, and with much 
satisfaction.' " 

Yet even in England players had need of 

79 



'THE GUARDIAN' ESSAYS 

powerful protectors. " Wit," said Chesterfield, 
opposing an unjust licensing Act, " Wit, my 
lords ! is the property of those who have it, and 
too often the only property they have to depend 
on." Wit, indeed, with the other gifts that 
make good company, has largely gone with 
theatrical talents, too often little to the benefit 
of the gifted persons. Theatrical society, rather 
than the theatre, has made the lives of actors 
as we see them in these volumes, in many cases 
so tragic, even sordidly tragic. 

If misery and madness abound in stage life, 
so also does an indomitable cheerfulness, always 
at least a cheerful countenance. Dr. Doran's 
book abounds, as might be expected, with 
admirable impromptus and the like ; one might 
collect a large posy of them. Foote, seeing a 
sweep on a blood-horse, remarked, " There goes 
Warburton on Shakespeare ! " When he heard 
that the Rockingham Cabinet was fatigued to 
death and at its wits' end, he exclaimed that 
it could not have been the length of the journey 
which had tired it. Again, when Lord Car- 
marthen, at a party, told him his handkerchief 
was hanging from his pocket, Foote replaced 

80 



THEIR MAJESTIES' SERVANTS 

it with a " Thank you, my lord ; you know the 
company better than I." Jevon, a century 
earlier, was in the habit of taking great liberties 
with authors and audience. He made Settle 
half mad and the house ecstatic when having, as 
Lycurgus, Prince of China, to '•'■fall on his sword^'' 
he placed it flat on the stage, and, falling over 
it, " died," according to the direction of the 
acting copy. Quaint enough, but certainly no 
instance of anybody's wit, is the account of how 
a French translation of a play of Vanbrugh — 
not architect of Blenheim only, but accomplished 
in many other ways — appeared at the Odeon, in 
1862, with all fitting raptures, as a posthumous 
work of Voltaire recently discovered. The Vol- 
tairean wit was found as " delightful in this as 
in the last century." 

Of Shakespeare on the stage Dr. Doran has 
a hundred curious things to note : — that Richard 
the Third, for instance, who has retained a so 
unflattering possession of the stage, was its " first 
practically useful patron." We see Queen Eliza- 
beth full of misgiving at a difficult time at 
the popularity of Richard the Second : — " The 
deposition and death of King Richard the 

G 81 



'THE GUARDIAN' ESSAYS 

Second." " Tongues whisper to the Queen that 
this play is part of a great plot to teach her 
subjects how to murder kings." It is perhaps 
not generally known that Charles Shakespeare, 
William's brother, survived till the Restoration. 
Oldys says, a propos of the restoration of the 
stage at that time : — 

" The actors were greedily inquisitive into 
every little circumstance, more especially in 
Shakespeare's dramatic character, which his 
brother could relate of him. But he, it seems, 
was so stricken in years, and possibly his memory 
so weakened by infirmities, that he could give 
them but little light into their inquiries ; and 
all that could be recollected from him of his 
brother Will in that station was the faint, 
general, and almost lost ideas he had of having 
once seen him act a part in one of his own 
comedies, wherein being present to personate a 
decrepit old man, he wore a long beard, and 
appeared so weak and drooping and unable to 
walk, that he was forced to be supported and 
carried by another person to a table, at which 
he was seated among some company who were 
eating, and one of them sang a song." 

82 



THEIR MAJESTIES' SERVANTS 

This description applies to old Adam in As 
Toil Like It. Many are the evidences that 
Shakespeare's reputation had from time to time 
a struggle to maintain itself. James Howard, in 
Pepys's day — 

" Belonged to the faction which affected to 
believe that there was no popular love for 
Shakespeare, to render whom palatable he 
arranged Romeo and Juliet for the stage, with a 
double denouement — one serious, the other hilari- 
ous. If your heart were too sensitive to bear 
the deaths of the loving pair, you had only to 
go on the succeedino^ afternoon to see them 
wedded, and set upon the way of a well-assured 
domestic felicity." 

In 1678 Rymer asserted (was it undesignedly 
a true testimony to the acting of his time ?) that 
Shakespeare had depicted Brutus and Cassius as 
"Jack Puddins." 

Here, as in many another detail, we are re- 
minded, of course, of the difference between our 
own and past times in mimic as in real life. 
For Prynne one of the great horrors of the stage 
was the introduction of actresses from France by 
Henrietta Maria, to take the place of young 

83 



'THE GUARDIAN' ESSAYS 

male actors of whom Dr. Doran has some inter- 
esting notices. Who the lady was who first 
trod the stage as a professional actress is not 
known, but her part was Desdemona. And yet 
it was long after that — 

"Edward Kynaston died (in 171 2). He lies 
buried in the churchyard of St. Paul's, Covent 
Garden. If not the greatest actor of his day, 
Kynaston was the greatest of the ' boy-actresses.' 
So exalted was his reputation 'that,' says Downes, 
'it has since been disputable among the judici- 
ous, whether any woman that succeeded him so 
sensibly touched the audience as he.' " 

In Charles II. 's time it was a custom to 
return the price of admission to all persons who 
left the theatre before the close of the first act. 
Consequently, many shabby persons were wont 
to force their way in without paying, on the 
plea that they did not intend to remain beyond 
the time limited. Hence much noisy contention, 
to the great discomfort even of Royalty. The 
brawling, drinking habits of the time were even 
more discomforting. An angry word, passed 
one April evening of 1682 between the son of 
Sir Edward Dering and a hot-blooded young 

84 



THEIR MAJESTIES' SERVANTS 

Welshman, led to recrimination and sword- 
drawing. The two young fellows not having 
elbow-room in the pit, clambered on to the 
stage, and fought there, to the greater comfort 
of the audience, and with a more excited fury 
on the part of the combatants. The mingling 
of the public with the players was a practice 
which so annoyed the haughty French actor. 
Baron, that to suggest to the audience the 
absurdity of it, he would turn his back on them 
for a whole act, and play to the audience on the 
stage. Sometimes the noise was so loud that an 
actor's voice would scarcely be heard. It was 
about 171 o that the word encore was introduced 
at the operatic performances in the Haymarket, 
and very much objected to by plain- going 
Englishmen. It was also the custom of some 
who desired the repetition of a song to cry Altra 
njolta ! Altra volta ! 

Even indirectly the history of the stage illus- 
trates life, and affords many unexpected lights 
on historical characters. Oliver Cromwell, 
though he despised the stage, could condescend 
to laugh at, and with, men of less dignity than 
actors. Buffoonery was not entirely expelled 

85 



'THE GUARDIAN' ESSAYS 

from his otherwise grave court. Oxford and 
Drury Lane itself dispute the dignity of giving 
birth to Nell Gwynne with Hereford, where a 
mean house is still pointed out as the first home 
of this mother of a line of dukes, whose great- 
grandson was to occupy the neighbouring palace 
as Bishop of Hereford for forty years. At her 
burial in St. Martin's-in-the-Fields, Archbishop 
Tenison preached the sermon. When this was 
subsequently made the ground of exposing him 
to the reproof of Queen Mary, she remarked 
that the good doctor, no doubt, had said nothing 
but what the facts authorized. 

" Who should act genteel comedy perfectly," 
asks Walpole, " but people of fashion, that have 
sense .? " And, in truth, the seventeenth century 
gave many ladies to the stage, Mrs. Barry being 
the most famous of them. Like many eminent 
actors, she was famous for the way in which she 
would utter one single expression in a play. Dr. 
Doran gives some curious instances from later 
actors. " What mean my grieving subjects .? " 
uttered in the character of Queen Elizabeth, was 
invested by her with such emphatic grace and 
dignity as to call up murmurs of approbation 

86 



THEIR MAJESTIES' SERVANTS 

which swelled into thunders of applause. Her 
noble head is here engraved after Kneller, like 
the head of a magnificent visionary man. 

Should we really care for the greatest actors 
of the past could we have them before us ? 
Should we find them too different from our 
accent of thought, of feeling, of speech, in a 
thousand minute particulars which are of the 
essence of all three ? Dr. Doran's long and 
interesting records of the triumphs of Garrick, 
and other less familiar, but in their day hardly 
less astonishing, players, do not relieve one of 
the doubt. Garrick himself, as sometimes 
happens with people who have been the subject 
of much anecdote and other conversation, here 
as elsewhere, bears no very distinct figure. One 
hardly sees the wood for the trees. On the 
other hand, the account of Betterton, " perhaps 
the greatest of English actors," is delightfully 
fresh. That intimate friend of Dryden, Tillot- 
son, Pope, who executed a copy of the actor's 
portrait by Kneller which is still extant, was 
worthy of their friendship ; his career brings 
out the best elements in stage life. The stage 
in these volumes presents itself indeed not merely 

87 



'THE GUARDIAN' ESSAYS 

as a mirror of life, but as an illustration of the 
utmost intensity of life, in the fortunes and 
characters of the players. Ups and downs, 
generosity, dark fates, the most delicate good- 
ness, have nowhere been more prominent than 
in the private existence of those devoted to the 
public mimicry of men and women. Contact 
with the stage, almost throughout its history, 
presents itself as a kind of touchstone, to bring 
out the bizarrerie^ the theatrical tricks and con- 
trasts, of the actual world. 



88 



VI 
WORDSWORTH 

27TH February 1889 



89 



WORDSWORTH 

The Complete Poetical Works of William Words- 
worth. With an Introduction by John 
Morley. Macmillans. 

The Recluse. By WilHam Wordsworth. Mac- 
millans. 

Selections from Wordsworth. By William Knight 
and other Members of the Wordsworth 
Society. With Preface and Notes. Kegan 
Paul. 

The appearance, so close to each other, of Pro- 
fessor Knight's careful and elaborately anno- 
tated Selections from Willia?n Wordsworth, of 
Messrs. Macmillan's collected edition of the 
poet's works, with the first book of The Recluse, 
now published for the first time, and of an 
excellent introductory essay by Mr. John Morley, 
forms a welcome proof that the study of the 

91 



'THE GUARDIAN' ESSAYS 

most philosophic of English poets is increasing 
among us. Surely nothing could be better, 
hardly anything more directly fitted than a 
careful reading of Wordsworth, to counteract 
the faults and offences of our busy generation, 
in regard both to thought and taste, and to 
remind people, amid the enormous expansion, at 
the present time, of all that is material and 
mechanical in life, of the essential value, the 
permanent ends, of life itself. In the collected 
edition the poems are printed with the dates, so 
far as can be ascertained, in the order of their 
composition — an arrangement which has indis- 
putable recommendations for the student of 
Wordsworth's genius ; though the former 
method of distributing his work into large 
groups of subject had its value, as throwing 
light upon his poetic motives, and more especi- 
ally as coming from himself. 

In his introductory essay Mr. Morley has 
dwelt strongly on the circumstance of Words- 
worth's remarkable personal happiness, as having 
had much to do with the physiognomy of his 
poetic creation — a calm, irresistible, well-being 
— almost mystic in character, and yet doubtless 

Q2 



WORDSWORTH 

connected with physical conditions. Long ago 
De Quincey noted it as a strongly determinant 
fact in Wordsworth's literary career, pointing, 
at the same time, to his remarkable good luck 
also, on the material side of life. The poet's 
own flawless temperament, his fine mountain 
atmosphere of mind (so to express it), had no 
doubt a good deal to do with that. What a 
store of good fortune, what a goodly contribu- 
tion to happiness, in the very best sense of that 
term, is really involved in a cheerful, grateful, 
physical temperament ; especially, in the case 
of a poet — a great poet — who will, of course, 
have to face the appropriate trials of a great 
poet. 

Coleridge and other English critics at the 
beginning of the present century had a great 
deal to say concerning a psychological distinction 
of much importance (as it appeared to them) 
between \.\\^ fancy and the imagination. Stripped 
of a great deal of somewhat obscure metaphysical 
theory, this distinction reduced itself to the 
certainly vital one, with which all true criticism 
more or less directly has to do, between the 
lower and higher degrees of intensity in the 



'THE GUARDIAN' ESSAYS 

poet's conception of his subject, and his concen- 
tration of himself upon his work. It was 
Wordsworth who made most of this distinction, 
assuming it as the basis for the final classification 
(abandoned, as we said, in the new edition) of 
his poetical writings. And nowhere is the dis- 
tinction more realizable than in Wordsworth's 
own work. For though what may be called 
professed Wordsworthians, including Matthew 
Arnold, found a value in all that remains of him 
— could read anything he wrote, "even the 
' Thanksgiving Ode,' — everything, I think, ex- 
cept ' Vaudracour and Julia,'" — yet still the 
decisiveness of such selections as those made by 
Arnold himself, and now by Professor Knight, 
hint at a certain very obvious difference of level 
in his poetic work. 

This perpetual suggestion of an absolute 
duality between his lower and higher moods, 
and the poetic work produced in them, stimulat- 
ing the reader to look below the immediate 
surface of his poetry, makes the study of Words- 
worth an excellent exercise for the training of 
those mental powers in us, which partake both 
of thought and imagination. It begets in those 

94 



WORDSWORTH 

who fall in with him at the right moment of 
their spiritual development, a habit of reading 
between the lines, a faith in the effect of con- 
centration and collectedness of mind on the 
right appreciation of poetry, the expectation 
that what is really worth having in the poetic 
order will involve, on their part, a certain dis- 
cipline of the temper not less than of the 
intellect. Wordsworth meets them with the 
assurance that he has much to give them, and 
of a very peculiar kind, if they will follow a 
certain difficult way, and seems to possess the 
secret of some special mental illumination. To 
follow that way is an initiation, by which they 
will become able to distinguish, in art, speech, 
feeling, manners, in men and life generally, 
what is genuine, animated, and expressive from 
what is only conventional and derivative, and 
therefore inexpressive. 

A very intimate sense of the expressiveness 
of outward things, which ponders, listens, pene- 
trates, where the earlier, less developed con- 
sciousness passed lightly by, is an important 
element in the general temper of our modern 
poetry. Critics of literary history have again 

95 



'THE GUARDIAN' ESSAYS 

and again remarked upon it ; it is a character- 
istic which reveals itself in many different forms, 
but is strongest and most sympathetic in what 
is strongest and most serious in modern litera- 
ture ; it is exemplified by writers as unlike 
Wordsworth as the French romanticist poets. 
As a curious chapter in the history of the 
human mind, its growth might be traced from 
Rousseau and St. Pierre to Chateaubriand, from 
Chateaubriand to Victor Hugo ; it has no doubt 
some obscure relationship to those pantheistic 
theories which have greatly occupied people's 
minds in many modern readings of philosophy ; 
it makes as much difference between the modern 
and the earlier landscape art as there is between 
the roughly outlined masks of a Byzantine 
mosaic and a portrait by Reynolds or Romney. 
Of this new landscape sense the poetry of 
Wordsworth is the elementary and central ex- 
position ; he is more exclusively occupied with 
its development than any other poet. Words- 
worth's own character, as we have already 
observed, was dominated by a certain content- 
ment, a sort of naturally religious placidity, not 
often found in union with a poetic sensibility so 

96 



WORDSWORTH 

active as his ; and this gentle sense of well- 
being was favourable to the quiet, habitual 
observation of the inanimate, or imperfectly 
animate, world. His life of eighty placid years 
was almost without what, with most human 
beings, count for incidents. His flight from 
the active world, so genially celebrated in this 
newly published poem of The Recluse; his 
flight to the Vale of Grasmere, like that of 
some pious youth to the Chartreuse, is the most 
marked event of his existence. His life's 
changes are almost entirely inward ones ; it 
falls into broad, untroubled, perhaps somewhat 
monotonous, spaces ; his biographers have very 
little to tell. What it really most resembles, 
different as its superficies may look, is the career^ 
of those early medieval religious artists, who, 
precisely because their souls swarmed with 
heavenly visions, passed their fifty or sixty years 
in tranquil, systematic industry, seemingly with 
no thoughts beyond it. This placid life de- 
veloped in Wordsworth, to an extraordinary 
degree, an innate sensibility to natural sights 
and sounds — the flower and its shadow on the 
stone, the cuckoo and its echo. The poem of 
H 97 



'THE GUARDIAN' ESSAYS 

" Resolution and Independence " is a storehouse 
of such records ; for its fulness of lovely imagery 
it may be compared to Keats's " Saint Agnes' 
Eve." To read one of his greater pastoral 
poems for the first time is like a day spent in 
a new country ; the memory is crowded for a 
while with its precise and vivid incidents : — 

The pliant harebell swinging in the breeze, 

On some grey rock : 

The single sheep, and the one blasted tree. 

And the bleak music from that old stone wall : — 

In the meadows and the lower ground, 

Was all the sweetness of a common dawn : — 

And that green corn all day is rustling in thine ears ! 

Clear and delicate at once as he is in the 
outlining of visible imagery, he is more finely 
scrupulous still in the noting of sounds ; he con- 
ceives of noble sound as even moulding the 
human countenance to nobler types, and as some- 
thing actually " profaned " by visible form or 
colour. He has a power likewise of realizing 
and conveying to the consciousness of his reader 
abstract and elementary impressions, silence, 
darkness, absolute motionlessness, or, again, the 
whole complex sentiment of a particular place, 
the abstract expression of desolation in the long 

98 



WORDSWORTH 

white road, of peacefulness in a particular fold- 
ing of the hills. 

That sense of a life in natural objects, which 
in most poetry is but a rhetorical artifice, was, 
then, in Wordsworth the assertion of what was 
for him almost literal fact. To him every 
natural object seemed to possess something of 
moral or spiritual life, to be really capable of a 
companionship with man, full of fine intimacies. 
An emanation, a particular spirit, belonged not 
to the moving leaves or water only, but to the 
distant peak arising suddenly, by some change 
of perspective, above the nearer horizon of the 
hills, to the passing space of light across the 
plain, to the lichened Druidic stone even, for a 
certain weird fellowship in it with the moods 
of men. That he awakened " a sort of thought 
in sense " is Shelley's just estimate of this 
element in Wordsworth's poetry. 

It was through nature, ennobled in this way 
by the semblance of passion and thought, that 
the poet approached the spectacle of human 
life. For him, indeed, human life is, in the 
first instance, only an additional, and as it were 
incidental grace, upon this expressive landscape. 

99 



'THE GUARDIAN' ESSAYS 

When he thought of men and women, it was 
of men and women as in the presence and 
under the influence of those effective natural 
objects, and linked to them by many associa- 
tions. Such influences have sometimes seemed 
to belittle those who are the subject of them, 
at the least to be likely to narrow the range of 
their sympathies. To Wordsworth, on the 
contrary, they seemed directly to dignify human 
nature, as tending to tranquillize it. He raises 
physical nature to the level of human thought, 
giving it thereby a mystic power and expression ; 
he subdues man to the level of nature, but gives 
him therewith a certain breadth and vastness 
and solemnity. 

Religious sentiment, consecrating the natural 
affections and rights of the human heart, above 
all that pitiful care and awe for the perishing 
human clay of which relic-worship is but the 
corruption, has always had much to do with 
localities, with the thoughts which attach them- 
selves to definite scenes and places. And what 
is true of it everywhere is truest in those 
secluded valleys, where one generation after 
another maintains the same abiding-place ; and 

ICO 



WORDSWORTH 

it was on this side that Wordsworth appre- 
hended religion most strongly. Having so much 
to do with the recognition of local sanctities, 
the habit of connecting the very trees and stones 
of a particular spot of earth with the great events 
of life, till the low walls, the green mounds, the 
half-obliterated epitaphs, seemed full of oracular 
voices, even the religion of those people of the 
dales appeared but as another link between them 
and the solemn imageries of the natural world. 
And, again, this too tranquillized them, by 
bringing them under the rule of traditional, 
narrowly localized observances. " Grave livers," 
they seemed to him under this aspect, of 
stately speech, and something of that natural 
dignity of manners which underlies the highest 
courtesy. 

And, seeing man thus as a part of nature, 
elevated and solemnized in proportion as his 
daily life and occupations brought him into 
companionship with permanent natural objects, 
he was able to appreciate passion in the lowly. 
He chooses to depict people from humble life, 
because, being nearer to nature than others, they 
are on the whole more impassioned, certainly 

lOI 



'THE GUARDIAN' ESSAYS 

more direct in their expression of passion, than 
other men ; it is for this direct expression of 
passion that he values their humble words. In 
much that he said in exaltation of rural life he 
was but pleading indirectly for that sincerity, 
that perfect fidelity to one's own inward pre- 
sentations, to the precise features of the picture 
within, without which any profound poetry is 
impossible. It was not for their tameness, but 
for their impassioned sincerity, that he chose 
incidents and situations from common life, 
" related in a selection of language really used 
by men." He constantly endeavours to bring 
his language nearer to the real language of men ; 
but it is to the real language of men, not on the 
dead level of their ordinary intercourse, but in 
certain select moments of vivid sensation, when 
this language is winnowed and ennobled by 
sentiment. There are poets who have chosen 
rural life for their subject for the sake of its 
passionless repose ; and there are times when 
Wordsworth himself extols the mere calm and 
dispassionate survey of things as the highest aim 
of poetical culture. But it was not for such 
passionless calm that he preferred the scenes of 

I02 



WORDSWORTH 

pastoral life ; and the meditative poet, shelter- 
ing himself from the agitations of the outward 
world, is in reality only clearing the scene for 
the exhibition of great emotions, and what he 
values most is the almost elementary expression of 
elementary feelings. 

In Wordsworth's prefatory advertisement to 
the first edition of The Prelude^ published in 
1850, it is stated that that work was intended 
to be introductory to The Reciuse : and that The 
Recluse^ if completed, would have consisted of 
three parts. The second part is The Excursion. 
The third part was only planned ; but the first 
book of the first part was left in manuscript by 
Wordsworth — though in manuscript, it is said, 
in no great condition of forwardness for the 
printers. This book, now for the first time 
printed in extenso (a very noble passage from it 
found place in that prose advertisement to The 
Excursion), is the great novelty of this latest 
edition of Wordsworth's poetic works. It was 
well worth adding to the poet's great be- 
quest to English literature. The true student 
of his work, who has formulated for himself 
what he supposes to be the leading charac- 

103 



'THE GUARDIAN' ESSAYS 

teristics of Wordsworth's genius, will feel, 
we think, a lively interest in putting them 
to test by the many and various striking 
passages in what is there presented for the 
first time. 



104 



VII 
MR. GOSSE'S POEMS 

29TH October 1890 



105 



MR. GOSSE'S POEMS 

On Viol and Flute. By Edmund Gosse. 

Perhaps no age of literature, certainly no age of 
literature in England, has been so rich as ours in 
excellent secondary poetry ; and it is with our 
poetry (in a measure) as with our architecture, 
constrained by the nature of the case to be imita- 
tive. Our generation, quite reasonably, is not 
very proud of its architectural creations ; confesses 
that it knows too much — knows, but cannot do. 
And yet we could name certain modern churches 
in London, for instance, to which posterity may 
well look back puzzled. — Could these exquisitely 
pondered buildings have been indeed works of 
the nineteenth century ? Were they not the 
subtlest creations of the age in which Gothic 
art was spontaneous ? In truth, we have had 
instances of workmen, who, through long, large, 

107 



'THE GUARDIAN' ESSAYS 

devoted study of the handiwork of the past, have 
done the thing better, with a more fully en- 
lightened consciousness, with full intelligence of 
what those early workmen only guessed at. And 
something like this is true of some of our best 
secondary poetry. It is the least that is true — 
the least that can fairly be said in praise of the 
poetic work of Mr. Edmund Gosse. 

Of course there can be no exact parallel 
between arts so different as architecture and 
poetic composition. But certainly in the poetry 
of our day also, though it has been in some 
instances powerfully initiative and original, there 
is great scholarship, a large comparative acquaint- 
ance with the poetic methods of earlier workmen, 
and a very subtle intelligence of their charm. 
Of that fine scholarship in this matter there is no 
truer example than Mr. Gosse. It is manifested 
especially in the even finish of his varied work, 
in the equality of his level — a high level — in 
species of composition so varied as the three 
specimens which follow. 

Far away, in late spring, " by the sea in the 
south," the swallows are still lingering around 
" white Algiers." In Mr. Gosse's " Return of 

io8 



MR. GOSSE'S POEMS 

the Swallows," the northern birds — lark and 
thrush — have long been calling to them : — 

And something awoke in the slumbering heart 

Of the aHen birds in their African air, 
And they paused, and ahghted, and twittered apart, 

And met in the broad white dreamy square. 
And the sad slave woman, who lifted up 
From the fountain her broad-lipped earthen cup, 

Said to herself, with a weary sigh, 

" To-morrow the swallows will northward fly ! " 

Compare the following stanzas, from a kind 
of palinode, "i 870-1 871," years of the Franco- 
German war and the Parisian Commune : — 

The men who sang that pain was sweet 
Shuddered to see the mask of death 

Storm by with myriad thundering feet ; 
The sudden truth caught up our breath. 
Our throats like pulses beat. 

The songs of pale emaciate hours. 

The fungus-growth of years of peace. 

Withered before us like mown flowers ; 
We found no pleasure more in these 
When bullets fell in showers. 

For men whose robes are dashed with blood. 

What joy to dream of gorgeous stairs. 
Stained with the torturing interlude 
That soothed a Sultan's midday prayers, 
In old days harsh and rude ? 

109 



'THE GUARDIAN' ESSAYS 

For men whose lips are blanched and white, 
With aching wounds and torturing thirst, 

What charm in canvas shot with light. 
And pale with faces cleft and curst, 
Past life and life's delight ? 

And then Mr. Gosse's purely descriptive 
power, his aptitude for still-life and landscape, 
is unmistakably vivid and sound. Take, for 
an instance, this description of high -northern 
summer : — 

The ice-white mountains clustered all around us, 
But arctic summer blossomed at our feet ; 

The perfume of the creeping sallows found us. 
The cranberry-flowers were sweet. 

Below us through the valley crept a river. 

Cleft round an island where the Lap-men lay j 

Its sluggish water dragged with slow endeavour 
The mountain snows away. 

There is no night-time in the northern summer. 
But golden shimmer fills the hours of sleep, 

And sunset fades not, till the bright new-comer. 
Red sunrise, smites the deep. 

But when the blue snow-shadows grew intenser 
Across the peaks against the golden sky. 

And on the hills the knots of deer grew denser. 
And raised their tender cry, 

I lO 



MR. GOSSE'S POEMS 

And wandered downward to the Lap-men's dwelling, 
We knew our long sweet day was nearly spent, 

And slowly, with our hearts within us swelling. 
Our homeward steps we bent. 

" Sunshine before Sunrise ! " There's a novelty 
in that, for poetic use at least, so far as we 
know, though we remember one fine para- 
graph about it in Sartor Resartus. The grim 
poetic sage of Chelsea, however, had never seen 
what he describes : not so Mr. Gosse, whose 
acquaintance with northern lands and northern 
literature is special. We have indeed picked 
out those stanzas from a quiet personal record of 
certain amorous hours of early youth in that 
quaint arctic land, Mr. Gosse's description of 
which, like his pretty poem on Liibeck, made one 
think that what the accomplished group of poets 
to which he belongs requires is, above all, novelty 
of motive, of subject. 

He takes, indeed, the old themes, and manages 
them better than their old masters, with more 
delicate cadences, more delicate transitions of 
thought, through long dwelling on earlier prac- 
tice. He seems to possess complete command of 
the technique of poetry — every form of what may 
be called skill of hand in it ; and what marks in 

1 1 1 



'THE GUARDIAN' ESSAYS 

him the final achievement of poetic scholarship 
is the perfect balance his work presents of so 
many and varied effects, as regards both matter 
and form. The memories of a large range of 
poetic reading are blent into one methodical 
music so perfectly that at times the notes seem 
almost simple. Sounding almost all the har- 
monies of the modern lyre, he has, perhaps as a 
matter of course, some of the faults also, the 
" spasmodic " and other lapses, which from age 
to age, in successive changcb of taste, have been 
the " defects " of excellent good " qualities." He 
is certainly not the — 

Pathetic singer, with no strength to sing, 
as he says of the white-throat on the tulip-tree, 

Whose leaves unfinished ape her faulty song. 

In effect, a large compass of beautiful thought 
and expression, from poetry old and new, have 
become to him matter malleable anew for a 
further and finer reach of literary art. And with 
the perfect grace of an intaglio^ he shows, as in 
truth the minute intaglio may do, the faculty 
of structure, the logic of poetry. "The New 
Endymion " is a good instance of such sustained 

I 12 



MR. GOSSE'S POEMS 

power. Poetic scholar ! — If we must reserve the 
sacred name of " poet " to a very small number, 
that humbler but perhaps still rarer title is due 
indisputably to Mr. Gosse. His work is like 
exquisite modern Latin verse, into the academic 
shape of which, discreet and coy, comes a sincere, 
deeply felt consciousness of modern life, of the 
modern world as it is. His poetry, according 
with the best intellectual instincts of our critical 
age, is as pointed out recently by a clever writer 
in the Nineteenth Century^ itself a kind of exquisite, 
finally revised criticism. 

Not that he fails in originality ; only, the 
graces, inborn certainly, but so carefully educated, 
strike one more. The sense of his originality 
comes to one as but an after-thought ; and cer- 
tainly one sign of his vocation is that he has 
made no conscious effort to be original. In his 
beautiful opening poem of the " White-throat," 
giving his book its key-note, he seems, indeed, 
to accept that position, reasons on and justifies it. 
Yet there is a clear note of originality (so it 
seems to us) in the peculiar charm of his strictly 
personal compositions ; and, generally, in such 
touches as he gives us of the soul, the life, of the 
I 113 



'THE GUARDIAN' ESSAYS 

nineteenth century. Far greater, we think, than 
the charm of poems strictly classic in interest, 
such as the " Praise of Dionysus," exquisite as 
that is, is the charm of those pieces in which, so 
to speak, he transforms, by a kind of colour- 
change, classic forms and associations into those 
— say ! of Thames-side — pieces which, though 
in manner or subject promising a classic enter- 
tainment, almost unaware bring you home. — No ! 
after all, it is not imagined Greece, dreamy, 
antique Sicily, but the present world about us, 
though mistakable for a moment, delightfully, 
for the land, the age, of Sappho, of Theo- 
critus : — 

There is no amaranth, no pomegranate here, 
But can your heart forget the Christmas rose, 
The crocuses and snowdrops once so dear ? 

Quite congruously with the placid, erudite, 
quality of his culture, although, like other poets, 
he sings much of youth, he is often most success- 
ful in the forecast, the expression, of the humours, 
the considerations, that in truth are more proper 
to old age : — 

When age comes by and lays his frosty hands 
So hghtly on mine eyes, that, scarce aware 

114 



MR. GOSSE'S POEMS 

Of what an endless weight of gloom they bear, 
I pause, unstirred, and wait for his commands. 
When time has bound these limbs of mine with bands, 
And hushed mine ears, and silvered all my hair. 
May sorrow come not, nor a vain despair 
Trouble my soul that meekly girdled stands. 

As silent rivers into silent lakes. 

Through hush of reeds that not a murmur breaks. 

Wind, mindful of the poppies whence they came, 
So may my life, and calmly burn away. 
As ceases in a lamp at break of day 

The flagrant remnant of memorial flame. 



Euthanasia ! — Yet Mr. Gosse, with all his 
accomplishment, is still a young man. His 
youthful confidence in the perpetuity of poetry, 
of the poetical interests in life, creed-less as he 
may otherwise seem to be, is, we think, a token, 
though certainly an unconscious token, of the 
spontaneous originality of his muse. For a writer 
of his peculiar philosophic tenets, at all events, 
the world itself, in truth, must seem irretrievably 
old or even decadent. 

Old, decadent, indeed, it would seem with 
Mr. Gosse to be also returning to the thoughts, 
the fears, the consolations, of its youth in Greece, 
in Italy : — 

115 



'THE GUARDIAN' ESSAYS 

Nor seems it strange indeed 

To hold the happy creed 
That all fair things that bloom and die 
Have conscious life as well as I. 

Then let mc joy to be 

Alive with bird and tree, 
And have no haughtier aim than this, 
To be a partner in their bliss. 

Convinced, eloquent, — again and again the 
notes of Epicurean philosophy fall almost uncon- 
sciously from his lips. With poetry at hand, he 
appears to feel no misgivings. A large faith he 
might seem to have in what is called " natural 
optimism," the beauty and benignity of nature, 
if let alone, in her mechanical round of changes 
with man and beast and flower. Her method, 
however, certainly involves forgetfulness for the 
individual ; and to this, to the prospect of ob- 
livion, poetry, too, may help to brace us, if, unlike 
so genial and cheerful a poet as Mr. Gosse, we 
need bracing thereto : — 

Now, giant-like, the tall young ploughmen go 
Between me and the sunset, footing slow ; 

My spirit, as an uninvited guest, 

Goes with them, wondering what desire, what aim. 

May stir their hearts and mine with common flame. 
Or, thoughtless, do their hands suffice their soul ? 
Ii6 



MR. GOSSE'S POEMS 

I know not, care not, for I deem no shame 
To hold men, flowers, and trees and stars the same. 
Myself, as these, one atom in the whole. 

That is from one of those half-Greek, half- 
English idylls, reminding one of Frederick 
Walker's " Ploughman," of Mason's " Evening 
Hymn," in which Mr, Gosse is at his best. A 
favourite motive, he has treated it even more 
melodiously in " Lying in the Grass" : — 

I do not hunger for a well-stored mind, 
I only wish to live my life, and find 
My heart in unison with all mankind. 

My life is like the single dewy star 

That trembles on the horizon's primrose-bar, — 

A microcosm where all things living are. 

And if, among the noiseless grasses. Death 
Should come behind and take away my breath, 
I should not rise as one who sorroweth ; 

For I should pass, but all the world would be 

Full of desire and young delight and glee. 

And why should men be sad through loss of me ? 

The light is flying; in the silver-blue 

The young moon shines from her bright window 

through : 
The mowers are all gone, and I go too. 

A vein of thought as modern as it is old ! 
More not less depressing, certainly, to our over- 

117 



'THE GUARDIAN' ESSAYS 

meditative, susceptible, nervous, modern age, 
than to that antiquity which was indeed the 
genial youth of the world, but, sweetly attuned 
by his skill of touch, it is the sum of what Mr. 
Gosse has to tell us of the experience of life. Or 
is it, after all, to quote him once more, that 
beyond those ever-recurring pagan misgivings, 
those pale pagan consolations, our generation 
feels yet cannot adequately express — 

The passion and the stress 
Of thoughts too tender and too sad to be 
Enshrined in any melody she knows ? 



Ii8 



VIII 
FERDINAND FABRE 

"NoRiNE." Par Ferdinand Fabre 
I2TH June 1889 



119 



FERDINAND FABRE 

AN IDYLL OF THE CEVENNES 

A French novelist who, with much of Zola's 
undoubted power, writes always in the interest 
of that high type of Catholicism which still 
prevails in the remote provinces of France, of 
that high type of morality of which the French 
clergy have nobly maintained the ideal, is 
worth recommending to the more serious class 
of English readers. Something of the gift of 
Fran9ois Millet, whose peasants are veritable 
priests, of those older religious painters who 
could portray saintly heads so sweetly and their 
merely human proteges so truly, seems indeed 
to have descended to M. Ferdinand Fabre. In 
the Abbe Tigrane^ in Lucifer^ and elsewhere, he 
has delineated, with wonderful power and 
patience, a strictly ecclesiastical portraiture — 

12 I 



'THE GUARDIAN' ESSAYS 

shrewd, passionate, somewhat melancholy heads, 
which, though they are often of peasant origin, 
are never by any chance undignified. The 
passions he treats of in priests are, indeed, 
strictly clerical, most often their ambitions — 
not the errant humours of the mere man in the 
priest, but movements of spirit properly inci- 
dental to the clerical type itself. Turning to 
the secular brothers and sisters of these peasant 
ecclesiastics, at first sight so strongly contrasted 
with them, M. Fabre shows a great acquaint- 
ance with the sources, the effects, of average 
human feeling ; but still in contact — in contact, 
as its conscience, its better mind, its ideal — with 
the institutions of religion. What constitutes 
his distinguishing note as a writer is the recog- 
nition of the religious, the Catholic, ideal, 
intervening masterfully throughout the picture 
he presents of life, as the only mode of poetry 
realizable by the poor ; and although, of course, 
it does a greal deal more beside, certainly doing 
the high work of poetry effectively. For his 
background he has chosen, has made his own 
and conveys very vividly to his readers, a district 
of France, gloomy, in spite of its almonds, its 

122 



FERDINAND FABRE 

oil and wine, but certainly grandiose. The 
large towns, the sparse hamlets, the wide land- 
scape of the Cevennes, are for his books what 
the Rhineland is to those delightful authors, 
Messrs. Erckmann-Chatrian. In Les Courbezon, 
the French Vicar of JVakeJield, as Sainte-Beuve 
declared, with this imposing background, the 
Church and the world, as they shape themselves 
in the Cevennes, the priest and the peasant, 
occupy about an equal share of interest. Some- 
times, as in the charming little book we wish 
now to introduce, unclerical human nature 
occupies the foreground almost exclusively ; 
though priestly faces will still be found gazing 
upon us from time to time. 

In form, the book is a bundle of letters from 
a Parisian litterateur to the friend of his boy- 
hood, now the cure of one of those mountain 
villages. He is refreshing himself, in the midst 
of dusty, sophisticated Paris, with memories of 
their old, delightful existence — vagabondc^ libre^ 
agreste^ pastorale — in their upland valley. He 
can appeal safely to the aged cure's friendly 
justice, even in exposing delicacies of sentiment 
which most men conceal : — 

123 



'THE GUARDIAN' ESSAYS 

" As for you, frank, certain of your own 
mind, joyous of heart, methinks scarce under- 
standing those whose religion makes their souls 
tremble instead of fortifying them — you, I am 
sure, take things by the large and kindly side of 
human life." 

The story our Parisian has to tell is simple 
enough, and we have no intention of betraying 
it, but only to note some of the faces, the scenes, 
that peep out in the course of it. 

The gloom of the Cevennes is the impression 
M. Fabre most commonly conveys. In this 
book it is rather the cheerful aspect of summer, 
those upland valleys of the Cevennes presenting 
then a symphony in red, so to call it — as in a 
land of cherries and goldfinches ; and he has a 
genial power certainly of making you really 
feel the sun on the backs of the two boys out 
early for a long ramble, of old peasants resting 
themselves a little, with spare enjoyment, ere 
the end : — 

" As we turned a sharp elbow of the stream 
the aspect of the country changed. It seemed to 
me entirely red. Cherries in enormous bunches 
were hanging everywhere over our heads. . . . 

124 



FERDINAND FABRE 

" It was a hut, rather low, rather dark. A 
log of chestnut was smouldering In a heap of 
ashes. Every object was in its place : the table, 
the chairs, the plates ranged on the dresser. A 
fairy, in truth, reigned there, and, by the touch 
of her wand, brought cleanliness and order on 
every side. 

" ' Is it you, Norine ? ' asked a voice from a 
dark corner, three steps from the fireplace. 

" ' Yes, mon grand^ it is I ! The heat was 
growing greater every moment, and I have 
taken in the goats.' 

" Norine unclosed the window. A broad 
light spread over the floor of beaten earth, like 
a white cloth. The cottage was illuminated. 
I saw an old man seated on a wooden stool in a 
recess, where an ample serge curtain concealed a 
bed. He held himself slightly bent, the two 
hands held forth, one over the other, on the 
knob of a knotty staff, highly polished. In 
spite of eighty years, Norine's grandfather — le 
grand^ as they say up there — had not lost a hair : 
beautiful white locks fell over his shoulders — 
crisp, thick, outspread. I thought of those fine 
wigs of tow or hemp with which the distaff" of 

125 



'THE GUARDIAN' ESSAYS 

our Prudence was always entangled. He was 
close shaved, after the manner of our peasants ; 
and the entire mask was to be seen disengaged, 
all its admirable lines free, commanded by a 
full-sized nose, below which the good, thick 
lips were smiling, full of kindness. The eyes, 
however, though still clear and soft in expres- 
sion, had a certain fixity which startled me. 
He raised himself. His stature seemed to me 
beyond proportion. He was really beautiful, 
with the contentment of his face, straight as the 
trunk of a chestnut, his old velvet coat thrown 
back, his shirt of coarse cloth open at the breast, 
so that one saw the play of the ribs. 

" ' Monsieur le neveu ! ' he cried ; ' where are 
you ! Come to me ! I am blind.' 

" I approached. He felt me, with ten fingers, 
laying aside his staff. 

" ' And you would not take offence if a poor 
peasant like me embraced you ? ' 

" ' Quick, Jalaguier ! ' I cried, throwing my- 
self into his arms. ' Quick ! ' He pressed me 
till the joints started. Leaned upon his broad 
chest, I heard the beating of his heart. It beat 
under my ears with a burden like our bell at 

126 



FERDINAND FABRE 

Camplong. What powerful vitality in Norine's 
grand ! 'It does an old man good : — a good 
hug ! ' he said, letting me go." 

The boyish visitors are quite ready to sit 
down there to dinner : — 

" With the peasant of the Cevennes (M. 
Fabre tells us) the meal is what nature meant it 
to be — a few moments for self- recovery after 
fatigue, a short space of silence of a quite 
elevated character, almost sacred. The poor 
human creature has given the sweat of his brow 
to extort from an ungrateful soil his daily bread ; 
and now he eats that well-savoured bread in 
silent self-respect. 

" 'It is a weary thing to be thinking always 
of one's work (says the grand to the somewhat 
sparing Norine). We must also think of our 
sustenance. You are too enduring, my child ! it 
is a mistake to demand so much of your arms. 
In truth, le bon Dieu has cut you out after the 
pattern of your dead father. Every morning, 
in my prayers, I put in my complaint there- 
anent. My poor boy died from going too 
fast. He could never sit still when it was 
a question of gathering a few sous from the 

127 



'THE GUARDIAN' ESSAYS 

fields ; and those fields took and consumed 
im. 

The boy fancies that the blind eyes are 
turned towards a particular spot in the landscape, 
as if they saw : — 

" ' I often turn my eyes in that direction (the 
old man explains) from habit. One might 
suppose that a peasant had the scent of the earth 
on which he has laboured. I have given so 
much of the sweat of my brow — there — towards 
Rocaillet ! Angelique, my dead wife, was of 
Rocaillet ; and when she married me, brought 
a few morsels of land in her apron. What a 
state they're in now ! — those poor morsels of 
land we used to weed and rake and hoe, my 
boy and I ! What superb crops of vetches we 
mowed then, for feeding, in due time, our 
lambs, our calves ! All is gone to ruin since 
my blindness, and especially since Angelique left 
me for the churchyard, never to come back.' 
He paused to my great relief. For every one 
of those phrases he modulated under the fig- 
trees more sadly than the Lamentations of 
Jeremiah on "Jeudi Saint overset me — was like 
death." 

128 



FERDINAND FABRE 

That is good drawing, in its simple and quiet 
way ! The actual scene, however, is cheerful 
enough on this early summer day — a symphony, 
as we said, in cherries and goldfinches, in which 
the higher valleys of the Cevennes abound. In 
fact, the boys witness the accordailks^ the en- 
gagement, of Norine and Justin Lebasset. The 
latter is calling the birds to sing good luck to 
the event : — 

" He had a long steady look towards the 
fruit-trees, and then whistled, on a note at once 
extremely clear and extremely soft. He paused, 
watched awhile, recommenced. The note be- 
came more rapid, more sonorous. What an 
astounding man he was, this Justin Lebasset ! 
Upright, his red beard forward, his forehead 
thrown back, his eyes on the thick foliage of 
the cherry-trees, his hands on his haunches, in 
an attitude of repose, easy, superb, he was like 
some youthful pagan god, gilded with red gold, 
on his way across the country — like Pan, if he 
chose to amuse himself by charming birds. 
You should have seen the enthusiastic glances 
with which Norine watched him. Upright — 
she too, slim, at full height, inclining from 
K 129 



'THE GUARDIAN' ESSAYS 

time to time towards Justin with a movement of 
irresistible fascination, she followed the notes of 
her mate ; and sometimes, her lips half opening, 
added thereto a sigh — something of a sigh, an 
aspiration, a prayer, towards the goldfinch, with- 
drawn into the shadows. 

"The leaves were shaken in the clear, 
burning green ; and, on a sudden, a multitude of 
goldfinches, the heads red in the wind, the 
wings half spread, were fluttering from branch 
to branch. I could have fancied, amid the 
quivering of the great bunches of fruit, that 
they were cherries on the wing. Justin suffered 
his pipe to die away : the birds were come at 
his invitation, and performed their prelude." 

It is forty years afterwards that the narrator, 
now a man of letters in Paris, writes to his old 
friend, with tidings of Justin and Norine : — 

"In 1842 (he observes) you were close on 
fifteen ; I scarcely twelve. In my eyes your 
age made you my superior. And then, you 
were so strong, so tender, so amiteux^ to use a 
word from up there — a charming word. And 
so God, Who had His designs for you, whereas 
I, in spite of my pious childhood, wandered on 

130 



FERDINAND FABRE 

my way as chance bade me, led you by the 
hand, attached, ended by keeping you for Him- 
self. He did well truly when He chose you 
and rejected me ! " 

His finding the pair in the wilds of Paris is 
an adventure, in which, in fact, a goldfinch 
again takes an important part — a goldfinch who 
is found to understand the Cevenol dialect : — 

" The goldfinch (escaped from its cage some- 
where, into the dreary court of the Institute) has 
seen me : is looking at me. If he chose to 
make his way into my apartment, he would be 
very welcome. I feel a strong impulse to try 
him with that unique patois word, which, 
whistled after a peculiar manner, when I was 
a boy never failed to succeed in the moun- 
tains of Orb — Beni ! Beni ! Vicns ! Viens ! I 
dare not ! He might take fright and fly away 
altogether." 

In effect, the Cevenol bird, true to call, 
introduces Norine, his rightful owner, whose 
husband Justin is slowly dying. Towards the 
end of a hard life, faithful to their mountain 
ideal, they have not lost their dignity, though 
in a comparatively sordid medium : 

I ^i 



'THE GUARDIAN' ESSAYS 

" As for me, my dear Arribas, I remained in 
deep agitation, an attentive spectator of the 
scene ; and while Justin and Norine, set both 
alike in the winepress of sorrow, le pressoir de 
la douleur^ as your good books express it, 
murmured to each other their broken consoling 
words, I saw them again, in thought, young, 
handsome, in the full flower of life, under the 
cherry-trees, the swarming goldfinches, of blind 
Barthelemy Jalaguier. Ah me ! It was thus 
that, five-and-forty years after, in this dark street 
of Paris, that festive day was finishing, blessed, 
in the plenitude of nature, by that august old 
man, celebrated by the alternate song of all the 
birds of Rocaillet." 

Justin's one remaining hope is to go home to 
those native mountains, if it may be, with the 
dead body of his boy, dead " the very morning 
on which he should have received the tonsure 
from the hands of Mgr. I'Archeveque," and 
buried now temporarily at the cemetery of 
Montparnasse : — 

" ' Theodore calls me. I saw him dis- 
tinctly to-night. He gave me a sign. After 
all said, life is heavy, satis le Jillot, and but 

132 



FERDINAND FABRE 

for you it were well to be released from 
it.' . . . 

" I have seen Justin Lebasset die, dear 
Arribas, and was touched, edified, to the bottom 
of my soul. God grant, when my hour comes, 
I may find that calm, that force, in the last 
struggle with life. Not a complaint ! not a 
sigh ! Once only he gave Norine a sorrowful, 
heartrending look ; then, from lips already cold, 
breathed that one word, ' Theodore ! ' Marcus 
Aurelius used to say : ' A man should leave the 
world as a ripe olive falls from the tree that 
bore it, and with a kiss for the earth that 
nourished it.' Well ! the peasant of Rocaillet 
had the beautiful, noble, simple death of the 
fruit of the earth, going to the common 
receptacle of all mortal beings, with no sense 
that he was torn away. Pardon, I pray, my 
quotation from Marcus Aurelius, who per- 
secuted the Christians. I give it with the same 
respect with which you would quote some holy 
writer. Ah ! my dear Arribas ! not all the 
saints have received canonization." 

It is to the priestly character, in truth, that 
M. Fabre always comes back for tranquillizing 

133 



'THE GUARDIAN' ESSAYS 

effect ; and if his peasants have something akin 
to Wordsworth's, his priests may remind one of 
those solemn ecclesiastical heads familiar in the 
paintings and etchings of M. Alphonse Legros. 
The reader travelling in Italy, or Belgium 
perhaps, has doubtless visited one or more of 
those spacious sacristies, introduced to w^hich 
for the inspection of some more than usually 
recherche work of art, one is presently dominated 
by their reverend quiet : simple people coming 
and going there, devout, or at least on devout 
business, with half-pitched voices, not without 
touches of kindly humour, in what seems to 
express like a picture the most genial side, 
midway between the altar and the home, of the 
ecclesiastical life. Just such interiors we seem 
to visit under the magic of M. Fabre's well- 
trained pen. He has a real power of taking one 
from Paris, or from London, to places and 
people certainly very different from either, to the 
satisfaction of those who seek in fiction an 
escape. 



134 



IX 

THE " CONTES " OF M. AUGUSTIN FILON 

I 6th July 1890 

" CoNTEs Du Centenaire." Par Augustin Filon 
Paris : Hachette et Cie. 



135 



THE "CONTES" OF M. AUGUSTIN 
FILON 

TALES OF A HUNDRED YEARS SINCE 

It was a happy thought of M. Filon to put into 
the mouth of an imaginary centenarian a series 
of delightfully picturesque studies which aim 
at the minute presentment of life in France 
under the old regime, and end for the most part 
with the Revolution. A genial centenarian, 
whose years have told happily on him, he 
appreciates not only those humanities of feeling 
and habit which were peculiar to the last 
century and passed away with it, but also that 
permanent humanity which has but undergone 
a change of surface in the new world of our 
own, wholly different though it may look. 
With a sympathetic sense of life as it is always, 

137 



'THE GUARDIAN' ESSAYS 

M. Filon has transplanted the creations of his 
fancy into an age certainly at a greater distance 
from ourselves than can be estimated by mere 
lapse of time, and where a fully detailed anti- 
quarian knowledge, used with admirable tact 
and economy, is indeed serviceable in giving 
reality of effect to scene and character. In 
truth, M. Filon's very lively antiquarianism 
carries with it a genuine air of personal memory. 
With him, as happens so rarely, an intimate 
knowledge of historic detail is the secret of life, 
of the impression of life ; puts his own imagina- 
tion on the wing ; secures the imaginative co- 
operation of the reader. A stately age — to us, 
perhaps, in the company of the historic muse, 
seeming even more stately than it actually was 
— it is pleasant to find it, as we do now and 
again on these pages, in graceful deshabille. 
With perfect lightness of touch, M. Filon seems 
to have a complete command of all the physio- 
gnomic details of old France, of old Paris and its 
people — how they made a holiday ; how they 
got at the news ; the fashions. Did the 
English reader ever hear before of the beauti- 
fully dressed doll which came once a month 

138 



'CONTES' OF M. AUGUSTIN FILON 

from Paris to Soho to teach an expectant world 
of fashion how to dress itself? Old Paris ! 
For young lovers at their windows ; for every 
one fortunate enough to have seen it : — " Qu'il 
est joli ce paysage du Paris nocturne d'il y a cent 
ans ! " We think we shall best do justice to an 
unusually pretty book by taking one of M. 
Filon's stories (not because we are quite sure it 
is the cleverest of them) with a view to the 
more definite illustration of his method, therein. 
Christopher Marteau was a warden of the 
corporation of Luthiers. He dealt in musical 
instruments, as his father and grandfather had 
done before him, at the sign of Sawt Cecilia, 
With his wife, his only child Phlipote, and 
Claude his apprentice, who was to marry 
Phlipote, he occupied a good house of his own. 
Of course the disposition of the young people, 
bred together from their childhood, does not at 
first entirely concur with the parental arrange- 
ments. But the story tells, reassuringly, how — 
to some extent how sadly — they came heartily 
to do so. M. Marteau was no ordinary shop- 
keeper. The various distinguished people who 
had fingered his clavecins^ and turned over the 

139 



'THE GUARDIAN' ESSAYS 

folios of music, for half a century past, had left 
their memories behind them ; M. de Voltaire, 
for instance, who had caressed the head of 
Phlipote with an aged, skeleton hand, leaving, 
apparently, no very agreeable impression on the 
child, though her father delighted to recall the 
incident, being himself a demi-philosophe. He 
went to church, that is to say, only twice a year, 
on the Feast of St. Cecilia and on the Sunday 
when the Luthters offered the pain benit. It was 
his opinion that everything in the State needed 
reform except the Corporations. The relations 
of the husband to his affectionate, satiric, 
pleasure-seeking wife, who knew so well all the 
eighteen theatres which then existed in Paris, 
are treated with much quiet humour. On 
Sundays the four set forth together for a country 
holiday. At such times Phlipote would walk 
half-a-dozen paces in advance of her father and 
mother, side by side with her intended. But 
they never talked to each other : the hands, the 
eyes, never met. Of what was Phlipote dream- 
ing ? and what was in the thoughts of Claude .? 

It happened one day that, like sister and 
brother, the lovers exchanged confidences. " It 

140 



'CONTES' OF M. AUGUSTIN FILON 

is not always," observes Phlipote, whom every 
one excepting Claude on those occasions sought 
with admiring eyes — 

" ' It is not always one loves those one is told 
to love.' 

" ' What, have you^ too, a secret, my little 
Phlipote ? ' 

" ' I too^ Claude ! Then what may be 
yours ? ' 

" ' Listen, Phlipote ! ' he answered. ' We 
don't wish to be husband and wife, but we can 
be friends — good and faithful friends, helping 
each other to change the decision of our 
parents.' 

" ' Were I but sure you would not betray 
me ' 

" ' Would you like me to confess first ? The 

woman I love Ah ! but you will laugh at 

my folly ! ' 

" ' No, Claude ! I shall not laugh. I know 
too well what one suffers.' 

" ' Especially when love is hopeless.' 

" ' Hopeless ? ' 

" ' Alas ! I have never spoken to her. 
Perhaps never shall ! ' 

141 



'THE GUARDIAN' ESSAYS 

" ' Well ! as for me, I don't even know the 
name of him to whom my heart is given ! ' 

" ' Ah ! poor Phlipote ! ' 

" ' Poor Claude ! ' 

" They had approached each other. The 
young man took the tiny hand of his friend, 
pressing it in his own. 

" ' The woman I adore is Mademoiselle 
Guimard ! ' 

"'What! Guimard of the Opera.? — the 
fiancee of Despreaux ? ' " 

Claude still held the hands of Phlipote, who 
was trembling now, and almost on fire at the 
story of this ambitious love. In return she 
reveals her own. It was Good Friday. She 
had come with her mother to the Sainte Chapelle 
to hear Mademoiselle Coupain play the organ 
and witness the extraordinary spectacle of the 
convulsionnaires^ brought thither to be touched by 
the relic of the True Cross. In the press of the 
crowd at this exciting scene Phlipote faints, or 
nearly faints, when a young man comes kindly 
to their aid. " She is so young ! " he explains 
to the mother, " she seems so delicate ! " " He 
looked at me," she tells Claude — " he looked at 

142 



'CONTES' OF M. AUGUSTIN FILON 

me, through his half-closed eyelids ; and his 
words were like a caress " : — 

" ' And have you seen him no more ? ' asks 
Claude, full of sympathy. 

" ' Yes ! once again. He pretended to be 
looking at the window of the Little Dunkirk^ 
over the way, but with cautious glances towards 
our house. Only, as he did not know what 
storey we live on, he failed to discover me behind 
my curtain, where I was but half visible.' 

" ' You should have shown yourself 

" ' Oh, Claude ! ' she cried, with a delicious 
gesture of timidity, of shame. 

" So they prattled for a long time ; he talking 
of the great Guimard, she of her unknown lover, 
scarce listening to, but completely understanding 
each other. 

" ' Holloa ! ' cries the loud voice of Christopher 
Marteau. ' What are you doing out there ? ' 

" The young people arose. Phlipote linked 
her arm gaily in that of Claude. ' How con- 
tented I feel ! ' she says ; ' how good it is to 
have a friend — to have you whom I used to 
detest, because I thought you were in love with 
me. Now, when I know you can't bear me, I 

143 



'THE GUARDIAN' ESSAYS 

shall be nicely in love with you.' The soft 
warmth of her arm seemed to pass through 
Claude, and gave him strange sensations. He 
resumed naively, ' Yes ! and how odd it is after 
all that I am not in love with you. You are so 
pretty ! ' Phlipote raised her finger coquettishly, 
' No compliments, monsieur. Since we are not 
to marry each other, it is forbidden to pay court 
to me ! 

From that day a close intimacy established 
itself between the formerly affianced pair, now 
become accomplices in defeating the good in- 
tentions of their elders. In long conversations, 
they talked in turn, or both together, of their re- 
spective loves. Phlipote allows Claude entrance 
to her chamber, full of admiration for its graceful 
arrangements, its virgin cleanliness. He inspects 
slowly all the familiar objects daily touched by 
her, her books, her girlish ornaments. One day 
she cried with an air of mischief, " If she were 
here in my place, what would you do ? " and no 
sooner were the words uttered than his arms 
were round her neck. " 'Tis but to teach you 
what I would do were she here." They were 
a little troubled by this adventure. 

144 



'CONTES' OF M. AUGUSTIN FILON 

And the next day was a memorable one. By 
the kind contrivance of Phlipote herself, Claude 
gains the much-desired access to the object of 
his affections, but to his immense disillusion. If 
he could but speak to her, he fancies he should 
find the courage, the skill, to bend her. Breath- 
less, Phlipote comes in secret with the good 
news. The great actress desires some one to 
tune her clavecin : — 

" ' Papa would have gone ; but I begged him 
so earnestly to take me to the Theatre Fran^ais 
that he could not refuse ; and it is yourself will go 
this evening to tune the clavecin of your beloved.' 

" ' Phlipote, you've a better heart than I ! 
This morning I saw a gentleman, who resembled 
point by point your description of the unknown 
at the Sainte Chapelle^ prowling about our shop.' 

" ' And you didn't tell me ! ' 

" Claude hung his head. 

" ' But why not ? ' the young girl asks im- 
periously. ' Why not ? ' 

" ' In truth I could hardly say, hardly under- 
stand, myself. Do you forgive me, Phlipote ? ' 

" ' I suppose I must. So make yourself as 
smart as you can, to please your goddess.' " 

L 145 



'THE GUARDIAN' ESSAYS 

Next day she hears the story of Claude's 
grievous disappointment on seeing the great actress 
at home — plain, five-and-forty, ill-tempered. He 
had tuned the clavecin and taken flight. 

And now for Phlipote's idol ! It was agreed 
that Whitsunday should be spent at Versailles. 
On that day the royal apartments were open to 
the public, and at the hour of High Mass the 
crowd flowed back towards the vestibule of the 
chapel to witness what was called the procession 
of the Cordo7is Bleus. The " Blue Ribbons " 
were the knights of the Order Du Sahit-Esprit 
in their robes of ceremony, who came to range 
themselves in the choir according to the date of 
their creation. The press was so great that the 
parents were separated from the young people. 
Claude, however, at the side of Phlipote, realized 
the ideal of a faithful and jealous guardian. The 
hallebardes of the Suisses rang on the marble 
pavement of the gallery. Royalty, now un- 
consciously presenting its ceremonies for the last 
time, advanced through a cloud of splendour ; 
but before the Queen appeared it was necessary 
that all the knights of the order down to the 
youngest should pass by, slow, solemn, majestic. 

146 



'CONTES' OF M. AUGUSTIN FILON 

They wore, besides their ribbons of blue 7noire^ 
the silver dove on the shoulder, and the long 
mantle of sombre blue velvet lined with yellow 
satin. Phlipote watched mechanically the double 
hie of haughty figures passing before them : then, 
on a sudden, with a feeble cry, falls fainting into 
the arms of Claude. 

Recovered after a while, under shelter of the 
great staircase, she wept as those weep whose 
heart is broken by a great blow. Claude, without 
a word, sustained, soothed her. A sentiment of 
gratitude mingled itself with her distress. " How 
good he is ! " she thought. 

" It was a pity," says her mother a little later 
— " a pity you did not see the Cordons Bieiis. 
Fancy ! You will laugh at me ! But in one of 
the handsomest of the Chevaliers I felt sure I 
recognized the stranger who helped us at the 
Sainte Chapelle^ and was so gallant with you." 

Philpote did not laugh. " You are deceived, 
mother ! " she said in a faint voice. " Pardi ! " 
cries the father. " 'Tis what I always say. 
Your stranger was some young fellow from a 
shop." 

Two months later the young people receive 

147 



'THE GUARDIAN' ESSAYS 

the nuptial benediction, and continue the musical 
business when the elders retire to the country. 
At first a passionate lover, Claude was afterwards 
a good and devoted husband. Phlipote never 
again opened her lips regarding the vague love 
which for a moment had flowered in her heart : 
only sometimes, a cloud of reverie veiled her 
eyes, which seemed to seek sadly, beyond the 
circle of her slow, calm life, a brilliant but 
chimeric image visible for her alone. 

And once again she saw him. It was in the 
terrible year 1794. She knew the hour at which 
the tumbril with those condemned to die passed 
the windows ; and at the first signal would close 
them and draw the curtain. But on this day 
some invincible fascination nailed her to her 
place. There were ten faces ; but she had eyes 
for one alone. She had not forgotten, could not 
mistake, him — that pale head, so proud and fine, 
but now thin with suffering ; the beautiful 
mobile eyes, now encircled with the signs of 
sorrow and watching. The convict's shirt, open 
in large, broad folds, left bare the neck, delicate 
as a woman's, and made for that youthful face an 
aureole, of innocence, of martyrdom. His looks 

148 



'CONTES' OF M. AUGUSTIN FILON 

met hers. Did he recognize her ? She could 
not have said. She remained there, paralyzed 
with emotion, till the moment when the vision 
disappeared. 

Then she flung herself into her chamber, fell 
on her knees, lost herself in prayer. There was 
a distant roll of drums. The man to whom she 
had given her maiden soul was gone. 

" Cursed be their anger, for it was cruel ! " 
says the reader. But Monsieur Filon's stories 
sometimes end as merrily as they begin ; and 
always he is all delicacy — a delicacy which keeps 
his large yet minute antiquarian knowledge of 
that vanished time ever in service to a direct 
interest in humanity as it is permanently, alike 
before and after '93. His book is certainly one 
well worth possessing. 



THE END 



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